Robot stimulates research at Pioneer Farm

April 4, 2014

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Kary Babb and Dr. Matt Akins

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Dairy is big business in Wisconsin. The industry contributes more than $26.5 billion to the state’s economy annually. Research has been at the root of advances in technology and management of dairy farms. Increased productivity has been advantageous for America’s Dairyland. Recently, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Farm received a robotic feed pusher to use in conjunction with an undergraduate research study conducted with Vita Plus.

Wisconsin based Vita Plus is a company that serves livestock producers with technology, nutrition and management information as well as feeds. Increasing the intake of feed by cows in order to maximize milk production is the purpose of the Juno 100 robotic feed pusher produced by Lely, a manufacturer in the Netherlands.

Kary Babb, a senior animal science student from Durand, Ill., is conducting an extended internship with Vita Plus throughout the spring semester and summer. Babb will work with the Juno to conduct a research project on the impact a robotic feed pusher has on feed intake and milk production. “It is exciting to see more technology at Pioneer Farm,” said Babb. “Working with the robot will give me experience with a new product on the market so that I can better serve farmers as a nutrition consultant in the future.”

Juno will be stationed in the dairy barn at the Pioneer Farm where it will travel down the feed alley, pushing feed forward for the cows to eat. Thanks to various sensors, Juno can drive a route along pre-installed strips. Operating every hour, the robot is specially programmed based on the needs of the farm. “I expect feed intake to increase if the robot keeps the feed adequately pushed up,” said Babb.

This summer, Babb will work from the Dodgeville, Wis., location of Vita Plus where she will conduct a project on measuring feed shrinkage at the Vita Plus Dodgeville feedmill. She plans to further her education after graduating in the spring.

“Opportunities like this allow our undergraduate students to get their feet wet with some research,” said Dr. Matt Akins, assistant professor of animal nutrition at UW-Platteville. Akins will work with Babb in reporting the project’s findings. “This project will encourage our cows to get up and eat more which should translate into higher milk yields. We have purchased the Juno and are looking into further projects with the robot to evaluate cow-feeding behavior.

The robot will also reduce the hours put onto a skid loader used to push feed several times a day and the time a worker would need to operate it.

Written by: Ethan Giebel, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications,
(608) 342-1194, giebele@uwplatt.edu

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