World's Largest Robotic Milking System is Now Operational

World’s Largest Robotic Milking System is Now Operational

With twenty four new DeLaval voluntary milking system VMS™ the 1,500-cow barn in Makikhi South Canterbury has gone from milking zero to 750 cows in just seven days in just half the space available.

DeLaval_0264The barn is expected to be running at full capacity by year end. DeLaval worked closely with the van Leeuwens to meet their needs, providing a complete package to deliver excellence in animal health, efficient milking and a farm that works in synergy with the environment, at scale.

“We are pleased that the van Leeuwen’s chose DeLaval, a world leader in robotic milking systems, and we are confident that together we will be great partners,” says Paul Löfgren, EVP Sales & Marketing. “In addition, to the twenty four DeLaval VMS™, we are pleased that the barn is equipped with the DeLaval online cell counter OCC and our Herd Navigator™ system, which were among the key reasons for choosing DeLaval. The van Leeuwen dairy farm is a great example of a farm that is maximising its resources and keeping in balance with the environment.”

Robotic milking offers today’s farmers the opportunity to reduce labour costs and provides more flexible lifestyles by eliminating the need to milk the cows twice a day. This enables successful modern farmers like the van Leeuwens to focus on improving areas such as environmental sustainability and herd management.

“On this farm there is no artificial fertiliser. What comes out of the barn is recycled and goes back on to the farm,” says owner Aad van Leeuwen. “We have proved to the authorities that what we are doing here is sustainable. As we have a contracting business, the farm grows all its own feed for the cows on surrounding land  and so completes the cycle of a completely self-sufficient farm. Our goal is to focus on milk solids and not push volume ; we want to be sustainable,” he adds.

Technical details

  • Twenty four DeLaval VMS™ will deliver milk from 1,500 cows to two silo tanks outside the barn.
  • The liquid milk is cooled on its way to the tanks. In the first section, this is done using a pre-cooler and in the second section it is done using a water chiller. This is extremely cost efficient and at the same time delivers the best possible quality of milk to the dairy. Having one supplier for this solution was important for van Leeuwen.
  • The water used for pre-cooling is later given to the cows and the heat recovery system takes care of the warm water needed to clean the milking robot.
  • Using a central vacuum, just three pumps take care of all twenty four milking robots. This saves the farmer utility costs and helps reduce the farm’s environmental footprint.
  • The twenty four DeLaval VMS™ are arranged in eight groups with 60-65 cows milked per robot. After milking, the cows either go back to the barn or are sorted into a separation pen for treatment or insemination if required.
  • Cleaning of the milking robots is done via a cascade system, so that in each group there is always at least one DeLaval VMS™ available to milk the cows.
  • A special lifting gate is used per group to keep fetched cows in the area and after a certain length of time it goes up to enable complete free cow traffic again. During this period other cows can continue to be milked.
  • All separated milk, such as colostrum, is collected in just two areas in the whole barn. This measure is necessary to keep physical labour demands low and restrict the spread of bacteria.
  • The barn has two feed lanes to increase the feed rack space to increase feed intake per cow.


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