Clemson University introduces robots to Jersey herd

The LaMaster Dairy Unit at Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., is paving the way for the latest dairy technology in the Southeast. They now boast being the very first university dairy to implement DeLaval’s latest technology the DeLaval VMS V300, a fully robotic milking system. Milking a mixed breed herd comprised of 60 Jerseys and 120 Holsteins with a few Brown Swiss, it’s a prime opportunity to note how the Jersey’s unique characteristics and personality make her so adaptable to new management situations.

Clemson made the decision update from the old double-four parlor to three robotics units primarily due to typical wear and tear on the old facilities. Another motivation driving the change was the benefit they could offer to the region by being an early adapter of robotic technology. Simultaneously, this move also helps cut down on labor costs and caters to the growing technological interests of today’s dairy student.

The units are separated by breed with one used exclusively for the Jerseys, the other two for the Holsteins.

“The Jerseys adapted really well compared to the other breeds in our herd. They had the process figured out in less than a week,” said Steve Waggoner, Operations Manager at the dairy. “In the Holstein group, there were cows we were still fetching while the Jerseys had it down pat.”

In fact, the brown cows were so successful at figuring out the system, management needed to intervene.

“We started having to adjust milking permissions to keep some of them from coming in too much,” Waggoner noted with a laugh. “We had it wide open to start with, but as they were coming in so often, we had to put on the permissions.”

Additionally, the university hopes the new system will increase production while improving the accuracy of research and education. Many dairy farmers in the Southeast look to the potential success of Clemson’s new technology as they consider implementing similar systems on their own operations. Waggoner says university is excited to be at the forefront of these new dairy innovations, paving the way for the region’s future.

Clemson University has historically been known for the quality of genetics in their Jersey herd. Recently a cow from the herd, JX Clemson Lemonhead 330 604 {6}, Very Good-85%, was simultaneously the winner of both the 2019 Pot O’Gold Production Contest and the 2018 National Jersey Youth Production Contest for her current owner, Jacob Tatko, Donahue, Iowa. Tatko purchased her as a heifer in the 2016 Pot O’Gold sale in Louisville, Ky. GR Clemson Dale 783 907, Very Good-85%, was another Clemson Pot O’Gold consignment who won the 2013 National Jersey Youth Production Contest, Division II for Nathan Lawton, Newark Valley, N.Y. In addition to a history of Pot O’Gold consignments supporting Jersey juniors, the school also hosts the annual Clemson Spring Dairy Show and Junior Dairy Weekend in April.