When talking robotic barn design, we first think how to maximize cow comfort and facilitate cow flow. However, another aspect that cannot be overlooked when planning your robotic dairy is how the layout will affect the operation, serviceability, and longevity of typical equipment. In this article we will take a closer look at several examples that can impact overall performance.
Positive pressure in the VMS Room – Supply air will flow from the clean side of the robot (the VMS Room) to the cow side, as it must not come from the barn environment. This results in lower amounts of noxious gases, dust, and flies, providing a cleaner and more pleasant VMS Room. To achieve clean supply air, install ductwork or a fan in the exterior wall. If the air is coming from the exterior, it must be heated so the VMS Room is above freezing during winter. Often in cold climates, air is supplied to the VMS Room with a duct pulling air from a room with equipment that generates heat.
Clearances – Equipment should be easily accessible during service. The cabinet at the cow head side of the VMS needs at least three feet of clearance, so a person can work comfortably with the cabinet door open. The ceiling of the VMS Room should be high enough to accommodate work on the top of the robot. The robot is approximately seven feet tall, so typical ceilings are set at ten feet. Clearance for various equipment in the milk house and utility room(s) should also be considered, including the cooling tank.
Raised pads – These housekeeping pads consist of a four-inch slab of concrete, and are intended to keep equipment elevated off the main floor pad to isolate from water or debris. They also provide an anchor point apart from the main floor slab and can be designed to isolate vibration.
Service/access tunnels – Although they can add significant cost to a project, underground tunnels are excellent for locating mechanical, electrical, and plumbing raceways – making service more convenient than tunnels run overhead. Clean access to the VMS Rooms is also beneficial.
Manure drop at robot – Managing manure at the robot is very important. We have found that manual manure scraping in the robot becomes problematic. We strongly encourage a manure drop to a four- to six-inch sanitary pipe with a stainless steel plate to direct the manure to the drop. This results in a cleaner area with more consistent operation, as it indexes cows for the purpose of better attachment of teat cups.
Weatherproof outlets in VMS Room – Outlets near the robots makes it easy to find power for tool, lights, and anything else needed for service.
Plumbing considerations in the VMS Room – In addition to a water supply to the robot, consider adding a hose bib nearby for daily cleaning, as cleaner robots result in fewer operating issues. Also include a sink with hot and cold water supply for washing parts, teat cup shells, and other parts during servicing. Because small parts can fall into floor drains, consider installing removeable covers for easy retrieval. These covers are particularly important for the strip floor drain along the clean side of the robot.
Stainless steel sleeves at SSG & SG posts – It is common to place a footbath in a Smart Selection Gate (SSG) and Sort Gate (SG) system. However, the chemicals used in the footbath can be corrosive to the posts of the SSG and SG. Prevent corrosion by placing stainless steel sleeves at the base of the posts.
This list includes several important things to consider when designing your robotic dairy. However, our best VMS facilities are those where, in close collaboration with your dealer, general contractor, and architect/engineer, each and every aspect of the barn are planned with a focus on high levels of operation, serviceability, and longevity.