New smart technology is on the market to help farmers by teat spraying their cows more accurately and efficiently.
The challenge with in-race or walkover automatic teat sprayers is accurately predicting when the udder will be in the correct position. And to mitigate the risk of missing the teats, these systems are often designed to discharge high volumes of teat spray product.
But new intelligent technology developed by Onfarm Solutions, the Teatwand Stepover, will help combat auto-spraying challenges.
"The system has two sensors that measure where and when the cow is passing through the lane and they provide data to the controller,” Warwick Cross from Onfarm Solutions says.
"From there, the controller automatically selects the appropriate spray sequence which provides full coverage of all four teats.”
The system has four spray nozzles that operate in independently controlled pairs. If the cow walks at a slow speed, two nozzles will be used in the spray sequence and if the cow walks at a fast speed, all four nozzles will deploy for a shorter period of time to ensure full coverage of all the teats.
And if the cow stops walking, the walkover teat spray system will spray the teats once the cow walks through. It is designed so it won’t spray the same cow twice and there is also an automatic function where the spray nozzles get washed after every ten cows to prevent any blockage from dirt or manure.
“The sophisticated technology in the control system guarantees the accuracy and reliability of the spray covering the teats,” Cross says.
“The concept isn’t anything new, but it’s the technology in the brain of the system that refines the process and helps overcome the challenges inherent with walkover sprayers before.”
When covid-19 hit, the Onfarm Solutions development team found their diaries wide open after putting a large project on hold so turned their attention to the Teatwand.
“We had been thinking about a solution for years, but I guess we’d focused on the low-hanging fruit with the rotary sheds.
“We had put it off and put it off but we had a bunch of engineers and developers sitting around, looking for something to do, so we decided it was time to throw ourselves at this.”
They set up the trial on Greg and Barbara Morriss’ farm at Rangiora and recorded hours and hours of footage of cows walking over the prototype. As well as a raft of data from the sensors while they were developing the programme. There were a few ideas that got chucked out because they failed in action but they were pleased with the results of the final product.
The Morriss’ peak milk 390 cows and run a split calving system, milking 150 cows through winter.
“Udder health is really important to us and we’ve always teat sprayed in the shed,” Morriss says.
“I was sceptical about relying on an automatic sprayer at first, but being involved in the development and seeing the results first hand boosted my confidence, and it’s paying off dividends in labour and stress saving.”
They have two people in the shed during milking and utilise relief milkers regularly.
“It makes it easier for the team and the teat spraying is more uniform. Sometimes people forget or they’re in a rush and miss the odd cow. It helps streamline our milking process by eliminating the task of spraying.
“And originally we thought we may need to spray in the shed when the weather is really bad, but we just added some glycerine to the spray over winter.
“We haven’t had any more mastitis cases than usually or any notable differences in somatic cell counts so I’m fully convinced it’s doing a great job.”
The farm sits below 100,000 year-round and Morriss appreciated the opportunity to be involved in the development of the Teatwand Stepover.
“It can be daunting trying something new when you know you get good results from your current system, but the Onfarm Solutions team were great at taking our suggestions on board and making adjustments.
“We are all really pleased with the outcome and I definitely recommend it to other farmers.”
The product was launched at the South Island Agricultural Field Days earlier this year and had great exposure through the Fieldays Innovations Awards at Mystery Creek. They have sold units all around New Zealand and sent many to farms in the USA and Australia.
“There is an online monitoring option too and the units in the USA are all connected to it. It involves connecting the system to a modem in the dairy,” Cross says.
“And a flow meter is connected in the system which monitors the teat spray usage and sends information to an online dashboard.”
The units are easy to install on farm and are manufactured in their workshop in Christchurch. Most of the components are made in New Zealand with the sensors and valves sourced mostly from German manufacturers.
“Even though there is some complicated software involved, the overall product is simple. Once installed its plug and play for the farmer and it works with any teat spray product.” he says.
This story first appeared in the September issue of Dairy Farmer.