Robotic milking system for dariy cattle.
Updated: December 6, 2023
By Lexi Urbanz , and Fabiana F Cardoso

Robotic Milking System

Robotic milking systems, also known as Automatic Milking Systems (AMS), are systems of technology that allow for voluntary milking, meaning the cow has the ability to set its own milking schedule. Robotic milking systems also have the ability to record data on the milking frequency and milk quality, allowing dairy producers to make informed decisions on better herd management, nutrition and health.

How does robotic milking work?

Dairy cow getting milked in the robotic milking system.
Image Credit: Fabiana Cardoso

Step 1: Each cow has an electronic collar with a sensor that collects information about the cow for the dairy producer’s use, whether for tracking, health, or milk production. The sensor also controls the opening of the milking stall and determines whether the cow is ready to be milked.

Step 2: Based on the information provided by the collar, a specific amount of feed that meets the cow’s nutrition requirements is provided while the robot cleans the cow’s teats in preparation for milking. Sensors are used to locate the teats and attach the milking cups (Michigan State University, n.d.). Data regarding the milk yield and quality is recorded and analyzed at this time (Eller, 2019).

Step 3: When the cow is finished with the milking process, the cups detach and the robot cleans the teats once again before applying an iodine dip to protect the open teat canals from infection (Eller, 2019). The cow is then released and free to access her feed and bedding until she is ready to return for another round of milking.

Step 4: The milk is automatically filtered and transported into tanks to be tested for antibiotics, cooled, and stored. Tanker trucks take the milk to a processing facility for pasteurization and distribution (Michigan State University, n.d.).

Advantages of robotic milking

Efficiency is key, especially in an industry of high demand for its products. Here are some advantages of robotic milking systems that have a positive impact on dairy production:

  • The amount of labor needed to successfully run the dairy production is greatly reduced, allowing the dairy producer to devote more time to more important tasks such as farm management (Rodenburg et al. 2017).
  • Robotic milking allows for free-flow cow traffic, which provides better access to food since cows will experience less competition.
  • They create a stress-free environment due to fewer interactions between cows and people and less commotion overall. When the cows are more content, it motivates milk let-down and, therefore, increases milk production.
  • The sensors record all the important data about the cow’s health and milk production, allowing the dairy producer to maximize production as well as identify abnormalities as soon as possible (Lely, 2022).
  • Feed management for each individual cow reduces feed costs as the robots can optimize the amount of food for the cows so no feed goes to waste (Rodenburg et al. 2017).

Challenges of robotic milking

While there are sufficient advantages to using a robotic milking system, it is important to note that not everything is perfect.

  • Good quality robots are expensive. For a robot that can milk 50 to 70 cows each, it costs $150,000 to $200,000 per robot (Dairy-Cattle, 2019). For some farms, labor costs may be less than the cost of the robots.
  • Older cows may not be willing to adjust to the new milking system, causing a decrease in milk production. Also, training may take a long time (Soffar, 2019).

The future of the dairy industry

After looking at the advantages and disadvantages of robotic milking systems, it is ultimately up to the dairy producer to decide if they want to adopt the practice or not. As the world transitions from manual labor to technology-dependent labor, there is no doubt the United States will continue to adopt robotic milking technology.


This article appears on December 2023, in Volume 4, Issue 3 of the Maryland Milk Moos newsletter.

Maryland Milk Moo's, December 2023, Vol. 4, Issue 3

Maryland Milk Moos is a quarterly newsletter published by the University of Maryland Extension that focuses on dairy topics related to Nutrition and Production, Herd Management, and Forage Production. To subscribe to this newsletter, click the button below to enter your contact information.