DIRK AND Els Keijzer and their son, Hans, noticed an immediate improvement in terms of cow comfort and usability with the Lely A5 Astronaut compared to the A4.
The Keijzers milk 120 dairy cows and run an extra 60 young stock in a barn on their 70 ha farm outside Rotterdam in the Netherlands, producing about 10 000 litres per cow annually, or between 33–34 litres a day.
“It is a more silent machine and the manoeuvring underneath the cow is more agile, smoother and quicker,” Mr Keijzer said.
Mr Keijzer said the user and cow had to get used to the arm moving more quickly but it did not take long to settle. The new A5 also located the teat almost immediately.
The Keijzer farm is one of the first commercial farms to use the new A5. It installed A4 robots when the barn was completed in 2016 and is designed to be operated by one person.
They currently perform 3.3 milkings per cow per day with between 7–8 refusals. The cows have freedom to move, which removes pressure at milking time.
Lely said a design priority was to shorten the learning curve for the farmer. The interface now has the look and feel of its app, InHerd.
“We asked how is the farmer using it?” a technician on farm told visiting journalists.
“We visited all farms during the testing and validation process, witnessing the first time farmers used it and from that we could see what steps we did not get right and improved that.
“We implemented small changes and that brought us to an end score of 9.1 out of 10 (for usability), whereas the old system we scored 6.2.”
A list of maintenance tasks is scheduled and once completed the task is automatically removed from the list.
As an example of improved usability, the user had to press the interface eight times to get the arm in the correct position for cleaning. Now, the user has to press one button.
“We’ve improved the cow comfort factor with the A5 but we also had the farmer front of mind, too.”