Advanced AI system to revolutionise milking on dairy farms

Advanced AI system to revolutionise milking on dairy farms

New AI technology is improving cow flow at milking time, resulting in a more efficient process for farmers, and calmer, more productive cows.

Designed by Christchurch-based Livestock Visibility Solutions, the software called Flow is designed to streamline cow movement from the yard to the milking shed by automating the backing gate system.
Manually operated backing gates are used to move cows through the milking shed, but they are a challenge to operate and can cause stress for both cows and staff.

“It is the second most complex thing to train somebody on a dairy farm, behind pasture management,” says Livestock Visibility Solutions Chief Executive and Founder Richard Appleby. “If you operate it poorly, you either take way longer to milk or you increase lameness in your herd or you risk staff getting injured.”
“We kept hearing farmers were frustrated with the time it takes to milk. We wanted to solve this problem, so we went to dairy farmers and asked them about it. The vast majority were unhappy with the current process and said they would pay to fix it.”

This world-first system prevents cows from getting crowded, stressed, or unnecessarily pushed in the yard because of human error. The Flow software is connected to cameras that look down on the yard and uses artificial intelligence to learn the behaviour of cows and control the backing gate in response.

“When you put Flow in, you’re taking away a whole bunch of distractions and unnecessary tasks so you can focus on milking as fast and efficiently as you can. The difference of using it versus not is like night and day and the numbers speak for themselves.”

The five farms involved in the Flow pilot had remarkable results, with milking sessions shortened by 18%, lameness cut by 25%, and power costs dropping by 9%.

Farmer Kerry Higgins was involved in the pilot and said the benefits of using Flow were huge. “We’ve seen around a two-third decrease in our lame mob, it’s really increased our efficiency and we have a constant flow of animals who are calm because the system is working well.”

Rick Butler is another farmer who has been trialling Flow. Since implementing it in December 2023, he’s seen major improvements including an increase in milk production, a decrease in the time spent milking, and less sickness in his herd. “Flow removes the variability of people out of the system which is a no-brainer. From a manager’s point of view, I think it’s the best thing ever. It’s quite simple really, you remove stress from the equation, and you get happier, healthier cows.”

Flow is now available to purchase through the Farm Source store network. Farm Source Group Director Anne Douglas says: “At Farm Source, we are focused on finding innovative solutions which help our farmers to increase efficiency across all elements of their businesses. By partnering with Livestock Visibility Solutions, we’re able to provide farmers with options to increase milking efficiency and gain back time to spend on other activities – whether that be at work or at home.”

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