We had a beautiful set of blueprints for our robot barn drawn in January. We naively thought our plans were good to go! Each step of the project brings new ideas and challenges, and we are now aware that this is a real work in progress. We are becoming more cautious about our decisions, consulting more experts as we don't want to have to redo something in a year or so when we find out our plans didn't work in the real world.
We started building 4/28, digging the footprint of the robot barn in the middle of our exercise yard. The cows are pretty curious, always watching over the fence... We poured footings right into the footprint as it only took a yard more of cement and saved labor costs on building forms. BTW, cement for the project is $90 a yard, about $15 less than last year.
4/29 we moved about 450 10 inch cinder blocks into the yard. It took most of the day to form the foundation walls for the robot barn, robot pad, and the waste water basins just outside the barn. These basins will be connected to a septic tank outside the barnyard, and we will haul waste water to fields or the local water treatment plant. With a LELY robot we will be using considerably less water to clean up cows and bulk tank.
5/3 Today we formed all the sand to grades for water to drain in the robot room: all water will be directed to a narrow channel under the robot to the basins outside. The basins are covered with slatted cement floors, cows can walk on them to get to the robot and manure will not build up on the floor in that area. After forming sand, we put down 1 inch styrofoam and laid plastic tubing down to heat the floor in the winter time. Some robot users have used the infloor heating, other just use infra-red space heaters. We figure this is "cheap insurance", if the space heaters don't do the job we will already have the next system in place.
The work progresses, but there are always questions to think about. Our general contractor went on a day tour to other robots in Michigan, and studied their floor plans, drain plans, and talked about things they would have done differently if they had a magical "do over".
Tomorrow morning we expect to pour cement in the robot barn. We have poured literally hundreds of yards of cement around the farm in the last 24 years, but we hired professionals to do this job because of all the slopes involved to keep water moving in the right directions. Sure hope the day is sunnier, warmer, and drier than today!
Margie informs me that we should be calling Johann LELY an automated milking system, not a robot. Sounds more cow friendly, I guess. I grew up reading great sci-fi about robots who would do all the grunt work one day...Johann seems like a step in the right direction, whatever we call him/it!