By Tom Collins
LISTOWEL — A new robot barn in Western Ontario is now using a new automatic Lely manure vacuum — called the Discovery Collector — that is designed to replace alley scrapers.
Doug Johnston, who farms at Listowel with his brother Dave, moved the cows into his new barn in early December.
The barn was designed for two manure vacuums but it took seven months to get them delivered.
In the meantime, the farmers were scraping with a rubber tire scraper twice a day. It took two people 30 minutes to do each scrape.
The brothers, who built the barn for the next generation, have seven children between them, and most have expressed interest in one day taking over. Johnston said the kids wanted new technology, and the collectors were a good solution to alley scraper problems they had heard about.
“Everybody tells me in a new barn the biggest problem they have is alley scrapers,” said Johnston. “That they always break on a Sunday morning when you’re going to church. It’s a shitty job to fix.”
The machines started running in mid-June. There are less than a handful of barns using the collectors throughout Ontario.
The machines work better with non-slatted floors and non-sand barns, so the Johnstons’ bedding of compostable manure bedding seemed like a good fit.
The collectors look like mini Zambonis but act like carpet cleaners. A collector sprays a thin stream of water in front of it as it moves around the barn in a pre-programmed route, sucking up the manure in the alleys. The collector then drives to a dumping point — usually a small hole in the floor — where it drops the collected manure.
While the machine is taller than alley scrapers, the collector beeps and the cows become used to stepping around it, said Johnston. As the collector is designed to keep the floors cleaner, the cows should have fewer problems with hoof diseases, he said.
Farmers say the advantages of a Discovery include the robot taking up a small footprint in the barn, cows moving to the side of the machine instead of over an alley scraper and into all the manure, creating a cleaner floor than alley scrapers and being easier to fix.
Robot manure vacuum another option for barn cleaning
By Tom Collins