Would You like to start to milk Your cows with robots? Labour savings and better environment for You and Your cows are in Your dreams. But reality hits, a new barn is not possible to build, because it is too expensive and banks don’t borrow You money. But would remodelling Your existing free stall barn to robotic milking be an option to You?

Examples from Finland

In Finland we have had a long experience about robotic milking. First robots were installed in year 2000 and after that number of them has increased evenly. Now approx. 50 % of all harvested milk comes from robot barns and practilally almost all new barns are equipped with robotic milking. As every country, also in Finland, robotic milking is not increasing just building new barns. In big part of robotic milking increase is installing them in existing free stall barns. In this article we tell You some success stories from 4dBarn´s clients.


Sankari Dairy Farm

Maija and Marko Sankari´s Barn was originally built in 2006 and expaned in 2012. Barn has 2 + 2 free stall rows and narrow feed table with belt feeding system in the middle. Barn has slatted floors and mattresses in free stalls. Before robt remodelling there was approx. 90 cows and some heifers in the barn. Cows were milked with 2x8 herringbone milking parlor twice a day. Calving happens in dry cow barn beside main milking barn. Due to labour reasons Sankari farm decided to switch to robotic milking.

Remodelling was done in 2018 and it took 5 months. Two robots were installed in cow pens and milking parlor and holding area was converted to straw pen for fresh cows. There was no expansion, all changes were done inside existing walls. Builing time went fluently but production / cow went a bit down during building time due to noise. Before robots production was 33-34 kg / cow. After robots were installed and building time was over, production has went up to 37 to 39 kg. In parlor milking time barn needed two persons, now with robots only one is enough, although cow number has risen slightly.

Farmers, Maija and Marko Sankari are very happy about the result and in addition to robots they like very much about the gating. They are surprised how well a parlor barn can be converted to AMS barn.


Tissala Dairy Farm

Emma Lappi´s and Marko Valta´s barn was originally built in 2006. There are 4 rows of free stalls, feed is delivered with TMR mixer wagon via turning walls into the feed bunks from the both sides. Floor system is slatted and free stalls have mattresses. This barn was able to house 80 cows and they were milked with 2x7 herringbone milking parlor twice a day.

Tissala farm switched to robotic milking because of barn expansion. Capacity of existing parlor was not enough and labour to milk the cows was not easy to get. Barn was expanded so that it can house 220 cows and 4 milking robots, but at first phase only 3 robots were installed and rest of the stalls are used for dry
cows and big heifers.

In Tissala´s barn old milking parlor has converted to an area for VIC cows

In Tissala´s barn old milking parlor has converted to an area for VIC cows

Expansion and remodelling happened in 2019 and 2020. In summer 2019 barn was expanded, in fall robots were remodelled to old part and 2020 old milking parlor area was converted to a big bedded pack area for calving and VIC-cows. Most challenging in building was to remove old concrete, working inside in existing barn was slow because machines couldn´t be very large. The production was before expansion and remodelling 9500 kg but now it has increased to 11500 kg:s. Labour demand is pretty much the same as with 80 cows but now the number of the cows has more than doubled in a cow barn. Emma and Marko are very happy to VIC-pen, headlocks and gating.


Yli-Karjanmaa Farm

Brothers Antti and Pekka Yli-Karjanmaa have run their family farm now 15 years. They have expanded in several phases. In 2007 an existing free stall barn from 1990 with 60 cows was expanded with a new housing barn for 100 cows. Also a new 2x10 parallel parlor and holding area was built. In 2013 housing barn was expanded with additional 100 stalls. Housing barn has a drive trough feeding in the middle, stalls are in two rows in both sides of feeding table and manure is removed with scrapers. Cows lay down on top of matresses.

Farm has been run mostly by family members and with 200 cows milking took too much time. A plan about switching to robots was done with a small expansion. Housing barn was expanded 2 nd time with a robot area, VIC-pen and calving and sort area. Total cow number increased from 200 cows to 250 cows. As expansion was done and robots were in use, milking parlor was converted to house far off dry cows.

Robot area, milk room and special needs cows were located to an expansion part in Yli-Karjanmaa barn.

Robot area, milk room and special needs cows were located to an expansion part in Yli-Karjanmaa barn.

Before expansion farm was producing milk approx. 250 litres milk / labour hour, average production / cow to be 32-33 kg. After expansion and remodelling production / cow increased to 37-40 kg:s and in 4dBarn® Boosted service labour efficiency was recorded to be 670 litres / labour hour, which is one of the highest results with farms with remodelling robots to an old barn. Antti ja Pekka are very happy and positively surprised how much about the results.


Success with robot remodelling is demanding

After reading these three stories You may think if they are true and if You get this kind of results easily. Stories are true but in order to get there, time effort and money has been needed. All these farms went trough 4dBarn® Designed service, where a farm was coached to new working routines with AMS. Secondly barns where robots were installed were not more than 15 year olds, so that barn dimensions and ventilation were pretty good. Thirdly, quite significant changes were done around robots to achieve highest possible functionality. This meant a bigger investment, which may hurt during building time but pays back later. Each of these farms don´t talk about how much was cost but how well it works. If You are in plans to convert Your existing free stall barn to robots, contact us and we can explain how we can have Your farm to be a similar success story!

This article has been published in Dairy Japan magazine in May 2022.

About author

Jouni Pitkäranta


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