2014-11-19   facebook twitter rss

Robot Raises the Standard in Automated Milking

Visitors to AgriScot were amongst the very first people to see the all-new version of Fullwood’s class-leading Merlin automated milking system.

Featuring integrated segregation gates and a completely redesigned teat cup attachment arm, a working version of the robot, which sets a new standard in efficient, ergonomic and environmentally friendly milk production, was on display in the Highland Hall.

Merlin side entrygate

Merlin side entrygate

The latest incarnation of Fullwood’s robotic milking machine – the Fullwood M2erlin – is a completely new machine, redesigned from the ground up to deliver significant benefits in terms of milking efficiency, cow flow and milk integrity.

It features a unique twin-exit gate configuration which enables the milking machine to act as a segregation gate: the robot’s herd management software controls where each individual animal is directed after being milked, with cows exiting via either a side gate or straight ahead once the feed manger has automatically lifted out of the way.

By eliminating the need for additional segregation gates, the Fullwood M2erlin requires less space and is more cost-effective to install than more traditional, modular systems. It is also available in either a side or straight entry configuration to further add to its flexibility and space-saving credentials.

The M2erlin also features an all-electric milking arm that significantly reduces energy usage for teat cup attachment compared to previous robots and has fewer parts for improved reliability and serviceability.

“The Fullwood M2erlin is a completely new machine,” explains David O’Hare, Chief Executive of Fullwood Limited. “Despite being revolutionary in its design, it is nevertheless 100% compatible with our older robots and can therefore be incorporated into existing farm set-ups.”

Designed with efficiency, safety and economics in mind, the new milking arm does away with out-dated pneumatic and hydraulic drives and replaces these with energy efficient electric motors. This not only makes the M2erlin virtually silent, but also significantly reduces energy consumption, and improves animal comfort and safety.

The new milking arm also enhances Fullwood’s market-leading cluster attachment speed and offers unrivalled levels of cluster attachment accuracy. It is also extremely robust, enabling it to cope with the rigours of continuous milking, and includes force sensing technology which prevents damage or injury to both machine and animal.

As well as an all-new physical design, the new M2erlin also features several key operating software upgrades which improve and simplify herd management protocols. These include the installation of Fullwood’s recently launched MerlinView software, which simplifies the data available to herd managers by collating a series of key performance indicators (KPIs). Information such as individual cow milking data, cow activity, milk components, overall herd performance, bulk tank capacity and cleaning parameters are summarised and displayed in an easy to view format on a single computer display screen. The new software can also be viewed via a smartphone or tablet application making it possible for herd managers to keep a close eye on their herd’s live performance status from any remote location.

“The M2erlin is a significant step forwards in terms of milking technology and marks an important chapter in Fullwood’s history,” Mr O’Hare continues. “Whilst the outgoing Merlin is widely regarded as the market-leading automatic milking system, the new robot builds on its reputation for reliability, speed of milking and efficiency, and applies new technologies to reach a new pinnacle in automated milking. The end result is a revolutionary and cutting-edge robot, ready to meet the demanding challenges of next generation dairy farming.”

As well as the all-new milking arm, the M2erlin also utilizes a new crate design which enables cows of all sizes and breeds to be comfortably and safely milked through one standard machine. The new machine also features a number of additional fail-safes to protect the quality and integrity of the milk and comes as standard with Fullwood’s new Herd Management Interface (HMI).

“The new HMI enables farmers to access key cow data and milk production records from a full-size touch-screen display mounted on the robot’s housing,” Mr O’Hare adds. “As such, information such as milk flow rate, milk yield, heat activity and real time milk quality can now be accessed from the machine itself without having to consult the farm’s main computer. That allows the robot’s operator to keep a closer eye on each cow’s performance and to investigate any potential management concerns as she is being milked.”

The new Fullwood M2erlin is available in three specifications: from the entry-level M2 Essential, to the mid-range M2 Extended and advanced M2 Expert. Each version is available with a different range of features, ensuring there is a Fullwood M2erlin to suit every herd’s specific requirements.

The M2 Essential features a straight exit gate only and comes equipped with one feed inlet. Meanwhile, the M2 Extended and M2 Expert are both equipped with twin-exit gates and are available with inlets for up to three feedstuffs plus a fourth liquid feed. They are also equipped as standard with FullQuest – Fullwood’s 4-quarter conductivity sensor – for an early warning of intra-mammary infection (mastitis). Both are also available with an acid cluster flush system which rinses the teat liners with a solution of peracetic acid after each milking to prevent the spread of mastitis and other contagious diseases from one cow to the next.

The M2 Expert is also fitted with Fullwood’s CrystaLab technology which uses an in-line sensor to monitor fat, protein, lactose and blood levels in real-time as the cow is being milked, thereby giving an early indication of any underlying health or feeding issues.

The new machine has been designed in-house by Fullwood’s mechanical and electrical engineers who have developed and tested the M2erlin. The new machines are manufactured and assembled at Fullwood’s Grange Road premises in Ellesmere, Shropshire, ensuring that spares and all the technical assistance required by the company’s British customers are easily accessible.


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