Feb. 15 2013 06:00 AM

Event showcased a dairy automation pipeline that is brimming with innovations.

It's impossible to easily sum up the 46th annual World Ag Expo, which ended its three-day run yesterday in Tulare, Calif.

The weather was easily one for the record books. This year was as sunny, dry and clear as it can possibly get during winter in the San Joaquin Valley. Hats and sunglasses abounded, sunscreen was welcome, and ice cream vendors were swamped.

High commodity prices and an improving economy in many farming sectors made for an upbeat, optimistic atmosphere overall, but less so in the dairy area. A fifth year of financial hardship among milk producers was in sharp contrast to the simply amazing number of labor saving technology innovations that were introduced at the show – and a peek at others in the pipeline.

For example, DeLaval introduced its new Teat Spray Robot (TSR), a stand-alone unit for both pre- and postdipping in rotary parlors. GEA, meanwhile, introduced its new Apollo MilkSystem cluster, which applies dip to teats from inside the milking liner before cluster removal and then automatically backflushes the entire unit.

Robotic milking machine attachment is already decades old, but GEA also has an eye-opening application under development that is aimed at large-herd operations: Robotic attachment and removal units for every stall in herringbone and parallel parlors.

The irony and frustration of these and more innovations are that they come at a time when little of the dairy industry is able to afford them – yet the labor-savings and consistency they provide is critical for farm survival success.

Dairy automation and innovation are far from over. As much as the industry already has, far more appears just around the corner.