Successful Robot Barn Design

Successful Robot Barn Design
Nate Goeldi, Dairy Production Specialist, Purina Animal Nutrition (507) 271-1718

Hello everyone as this is my first article in the cooperative link since I was hired a little over a year ago I want to start by introducing myself and giving a background on myself and how I fit into All-American Coop. My name is Nate Goeldi and I was hired in May of 2015 as a Dairy Production Specialist following an internship that I completed with the Coop from May 2014 until August of 2014. My passion for the dairy industry stemmed from showing dairy cattle in 4-H and FFA. I took that passion to The University of Wisconsin-River Falls to study Dairy Science where I graduated with a degree in Dairy science in May 2015. Since I was hired back full time I have been focusing my time on learning more about adult dairy cow nutrition including lactating and dry cow nutrition. In April of 2016 I attended a Farm Management Specialist training hosted by Lely North America. This training was designed to give me the tools to consult with robotic milking systems on dairies as well as consult on new barn designs for robotic dairy set-ups. I plan to use this knowledge to help current customers that currently use robots to become more efficient and knowledgeable about their robots. All-American Coop pelleting capability is a perfect fit for robotic dairies to utilize as a local feed supplier.  

I feel the most important part of a robotic milking system is the barn that is around the robots. There are five steps to keep in mind for a successful design or retrofit in a barn for robots:

  1. Always make a list of Business Development Factors that include Internal and External factors that will affect the overall design.

    1. External factors: Legislation, culture, climate, production availability, soil, cost/available building materials
    2. Internal factors: size of farm, future plans/ objectives, type of dairy farm, management style, size/ breed of cow, available capital, new barn or renovation
    3. For People

      1. Efficient routing allows for easier checking of attention pen as well as fresh group. Make sure to check attention group several times a day.
    4. Manure and Ventilation

      1. Talk with a FMS technician about proper ways to set up manure handling/ scraping to conform to local and state regulations. Make sure to set-up your ventilation to combat what the local climate will dictate.
  2. Develop your barn plan so you can stimulate production through the following

    1. Free cow traffic: cows should be allowed to drink, eat, milk, and lie down without any interruption.
    2. Space: Lely has put many years of research into determining correct spacing between certain objects in the barn as well as stall dimensions
    3. Cow comfort:

      1. Flooring- rough enough to enhance hoof grip but not so rough to cause problems in hoofs. This will encourage natural behavior and prevent injuries.
      2. High comfort pens close to the robots for pre-fresh and attention cows.
  3. Logistics

    1. People and Cows

      1. Short walking lines for cows as well as the farmer to make it convenient for cows to access the robot as well as easy for farmer/ technician to service the robot.
  4. Work Smarter

    1. Lay out separation pens and treatment areas first and build barn around them.
    2. Make access and use of equipment in the barn safe and easy from hoof trimming chutes to robot panels that need to be cleaned.
    3. Headlocks to perform simple treatments including udder singing and tail hair clipping
    4. Equipment room just off the side of the robots that contain all emergency equipment to treat all diseases.  
    5. Clever gates to fetch cows and train cows/heifers in the waiting area
    6. Footbaths placed in high traffic areas in the pen.
  5. Safety

    1. Ensure that all cows can be moved efficiently and safe from pen to pen.
    2. Make sure all workers are trained to handle cows in a calm and slow manner.

Here are just a few layouts that fit in to all of these guidelines.


These are just a few important things to keep in mind to have a successful robot barn design. If you are interested in learning more about barn design or have any other questions about robots feel free to contact myself at 507-271-1718 or 

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