With its conversion from a rotary milking parlor to an automated system with 16 GEA DairyRobot R9500 milking robots, Agrar GmbH Cottbus West in Krieschow, Germany, has installed GEA’s largest automated milking system in Europe to date.

Six central supply units, each with three robots, will be used to milk up to 800 cows. During the construction of the new system, the company not only wanted to focus on efficiency, reduced water and energy consumption and maximum milk quality, but also animal welfare. Daylight and fresh air are continuously supplied through curtains and sectional gates with large light openings, creating the best conditions for dairy cows and a pleasant barn climate year-round. Likewise, optimal temperatures in the working area and protection of the milk-carrying elements is ensured due to underfloor heating powered by a heat recovery system from the farm's own biogas plant.

Having reached its limitations some time ago when the herd reached 600, the previous rotary milking parlor at Agrar GmbH needed replacing. Adding to the situation were increased infection rates, coupled with the system’s overall inefficiency. For Managing Director Koen Veldkamp, this represented an opportunity to move to a new, future-proof solution. What he got was a truly remarkable system – in every respect. And not only because of its impressive size, but also the intelligent concepts utilized at every stage, from planning to implementation to resource-efficient operation.

Environmentally sound management

As Agrar GmbH Cottbus West’s medium-term plan was to increase its herd to 800 cows, the system and barn had to be planned and sized accordingly. For a herd of this size, an automated milking system was the only option for Veldkamp. Having had positive experiences with the GEA MIone milking robot in the past, he selected the GEA DairyRobot R9500 for the new facility. Many companies are put off by the long construction times required for an automated milking system, but Agrar GmbH worked closely with GEA and local GEA specialist Duräumat-Agrotec Agrartechnik GmbH to develop a turnkey automated milking system for the site. They sourced a floor made from prefabricated concrete bases – including joints, connectors and openings – all supplied ready for installation. This enabled the team to complete the project and begin operations with just six months of pure construction time.

Three boxes are connected to each of the six supply units. The company is currently using 16 of these, and more can be added easily when required. This means less equipment, lower water and power consumption, fewer maintenance processes and a lower investment than with other box systems. It also requires less personnel and occupies less of their time as the system, even one of this size, can be operated by just two people.

Improved milk quality and increased animal welfare

Agrar GmbH Cottbus West also benefits from many other milk quality and animal welfare benefits of the DairyRobot R9500. The In-Liner Everything principle ensures maximum hygiene throughout the milking process as everything from attachment to cleaning, stimulation and all the way to the point of removal – including dipping – happens within the teat cup.

To ensure the maximum spaciousness of the existing site for the animals, pre- and post-selection systems were left out of the design. “With the herd management system, free-flow cow traffic works brilliantly, and the cows enjoy the consistent, self-determined processes, including just after calving. The system automatically redirects the calf milk so that neither worker nor animal have to adapt their routines,” explains Veldkamp.

How well the new system is working is clear from the first quarter figures. First class milking hygiene, animal-friendly processes and intelligent herd management have delivered an increase in both milk yield and quality. The cell and germ counts have dropped significantly – even in half in some cases.

In summary, efficiency and quality at Agrar GmbH Cottbus West has been significantly increased at all levels. The innovative solution comprising leading robotic milking technology, time-saving installation and the outstanding service provided by GEA specialist Duräumat-Agrotec Agrartechnik GmbH enables sustainable operation with healthy, vital cows. For Koen Veldkamp, this means now having more time to invest in the management of his company. Asked how he felt about the overall process and results: "We are completely satisfied," he says.

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