Solar panels powering a robotic milking system that allows cows to choose when and how often they are milked was on show at a recent field day in NSW.
Wayne and Paul Clarke have installed solar panels on Loongana Farm in Dobies Bight (west of Lismore). The panels power four DeLaval milking robots that make up the farm’s Voluntary Milking System.
The robots milk 300 cows year-round, from voluntary grazing traffic over about 182ha of pasture.
Last week the Clarkes opened the farm gates to share their results with visiting farmers from around the region.
‘‘We’ve saved around 25 to 30 per cent of our electricity costs from installing a 35kW system,’’ Wayne Clarke said.
‘‘We’ve run it for two quarters now and we’re really happy with what it’s meant for our bottom line.’’
For DeLaval Australia’s technical support team, powering its robotic systems with solar is a first for the company.
‘‘The quality of the power that is provided from the panels is fantastic for the VMS,’’ DeLaval’s national robotic milking manager David Widdicombe said.
‘‘It’s very reliable, no brown-outs or spikes, it’s an exceptionally stable power source.’’
That stability is critical, as the robots milk up to 75 cows each around the clock at roughly 150 to 160 milkings per robot per day.
Mr Widdicombe said the farm was now one of its most profitable robotics farms in Australia, thanks also to the Clarkes’ careful use of the DelPro management system that captures and interprets data from the robots.
‘‘The Clarkes have really put a laser focus on farm management — not only with the solar panels, but also feed efficiencies and their breeding program — they are really extracting every data point from the VMS via DelPro and using it to their advantage,’’ he said.