News Column

Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Device to Motivate an Animal to Leave a Milking Stall", for Approval

July 3, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Politics & Government Week -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventors Axelson, Johan (Bromma, SE); Gudmundsson, Mats (Nykvarn, SE), filed on July 6, 2012, was made available online on June 19, 2014.

The patent's assignee is Delaval Holding Ab.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to a device to motivate an animal to leave a milking stall, wherein the device comprises a first unit configured to motivate an animal to leave the milking stall by means of a first motivation means.

"Milking stalls for voluntary milking of cows comprises a milking robot attaching teat cups to the teats of cows entering the milking stall. When the milking process of a cow is finished, an exit gate is open and the cow leaves the milking stall. However, all cows do not leave the milking stall immediately when the exit gate is open. In this case, a subsequent cow has to wait some time before the milking stall is vacant. Milking stalls provided with a milking robot are expensive. It is therefore important that the capacity of such a milking stall is used in a substantially optimal manner and without unnecessary time delays between the milking processes.

"GB 1,175,588 shows a rotary parlour with a plurality of milking stalls for cows. A constraining means is arranged at an exit opening of the platform. The object of the constraining means is to motivate the cows to leave the platform when the milking stall arrives to the exit opening. The constraining means may be a flashing light, an electric dog or means for directing a water jet towards the head of the animal.

"DE 41 34 163 shows a method for blowing an air jet towards animals in order to guide the animals in a desired direction. A cow may be in a calm half sleep state after it has been milked. An air jet towards the cow wakes it up from the half sleep state and draws attention to the fact that it is time to leave the milking stall.

"EP 562 655 shows a milking stall for automatic milking of cows. The milking stall includes expelling means for removing a cow from the milking stall. The expelling means consists of a mechanical device including movable plates configured to come in contact with a rear portion of a cow and push the cow towards an exit of the milking stall when it is time to leave. This mechanical device may have a reliable function but it is heavy and complicated to arrange in a milking stall."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "The object of the present invention is to provide a device which is capable to motivate milking animals to leave a milking stall substantially immediately every time a milking process has been finished.

"The inventers has discovered that milking animals get used to substantially all kind of motivation means such as air jets etc. After a number of milking processes, the ability of the motivation means to motivate the animals to leave the milking stall decreases.

"The above mentioned object is obtained by the initially mentioned device which is characterized in that the device comprises at least a second unit configured to motivate an animal to leave the milking stall by means of a second motivation means which is of different type than the first motivation means and a control unit configured to activate at least one of said units such that an animal in the milking stall will be motivated to leave the milking stall by means of the first motivation means and/or the second motivation means when it is time for the animal to leave the milking stall.

"Thus, the animals will sometimes be motivated to leave the milking stall by means of the first motivation means. Other times, the animals will be motivated to leave the milking stall by means of the second motivation means. A further possibility is to use the first motivation means and the second motivation means at the same time. By such a use of the at least two units with different types of motivation means, the risk that the animals get used to the device is low. Consequently, the ability of the device to motivate the animals to leave the milking stall will not significantly decrease with time. In most cases, the different kinds of units may be given a relatively simple design with few including components. The control unit which activates one of the units may be a relatively simple computer or the like provided with a suitable software for this purpose. Thus, the device may be given very reliable function with a relatively simple design.

"The motivation means may be divided into two main groups. A first group of motivation means is positioned inside the milking stall. They have the task to wake up the animal in the milking stall and pay the attention to the fact that it is time to leave the milking stall. A second group of motivation means is positioned outside the milking stall. They have the task to attract the animals such that they will be motivated to leave the milking stall. Thus, motivation means from these two different groups are of different types since they motivate an animal to leave by two different reasons. Furthermore, motivation means of different types may be perceived by two different senses of the animal such as sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. If the motivation means of different types are perceived with the same sense, such as the touch, the touch effect can be provided by medium in different phases such as a gaseous medium, a liquid medium or a solid medium. The touch effect may also be provided by electricity etc. Gas jets, liquid jets, mechanical touching components and electricity are perceived quiet differently when they come in contact with the skin of an animal. However, different kinds of gas jets directed against the skin of the animal do not perform different types of motivation means since they motivates the animal to leave the milking stall by the same reason, they are perceived by the same sense and the touch effect is provided with same kind of medium. In this case, different variants are achieved by the same type of motivation means.

"According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the different types of motivation means are two of the following motivation means gas jets directed to the animal: liquid jets directed to the animal, a sound alarm, a light alarm, a mechanical component acting on the animal, electric impulses, to remove the food in the milking stall, an attractive sound, sight or smell that is perceived to come from a position outside of the milking stall. These different types of motivation means have the ability to wake up the animals after the milking process in the milking stall and pay the attention to the fact that it is time for the animal to leave the milking stall or the ability to attract the animal from a position outside the milking stall such that it will be motivated to leave the milking stall.

"According to an embodiment of the invention, the device comprises more than two units wherein each of the units is configured to motivate an animal to leave the milking stall by means of different types of motivation means. By the use of three or more different types of motivation means, the risk that the animals get used to the device is further reduced.

"According to an embodiment of the invention, at least one of said units is configured to motivate an animal to leave the milking stall by means of a motivation means having a variable function, preferably varied in time and intensity. Motivation means in the form of, for example, air jets, water jets, sound alarms, light alarms, mechanical pushing devices, an electric impulses are easy to vary in time and intensity. The ability to vary at least one of the different types of motivation means in time and intensity increases further the capacity of the device.

"According to an embodiment of the invention, the control unit is configured to activate at least one of the units by means of a random number generator. In this case, the different kinds of units will be activated randomly. Thus, there is no possibility that the animal knows in advance what type of motivation means is to be activated when it has to leave the milking stall. In this case, the risk that the animals get used to the different types of motivation means and do not leave the milking stall in time is low. Alternatively, the control unit is configured to activate the units in a predetermined proper order in the milking stall regardless of which animal entering the milking stall. Since the animals in a herd enter the milking stall substantially randomly, also in this case the different kinds of units will be activated randomly for the individual animals. The control unit may here comprise soft ware alternating the activation of the different kinds of units in accordance to a certain schedule.

"According to an embodiment of the invention, the device comprises a memory configured to store data of individual animals milked in the milking stall, wherein the control unit is configured to receive information from an identifying sensor about the identity of an animal in the milking stall and activate at least one of the units by means of stored data in the memory of this individual animal. It is here possible to avoid that the same motivation means is used twice in a row for an individual animal. Furthermore, it is possible to vary the use of the motivation means in a specific order for the individual animals. The risk that the animals get used to the motivation means is minimal.

"Preferably, the memory is configured to store data about a parameter related to how effectively the different types of motivation means affects on the individual animals when it is time to leave the milking stall. In this case, the control unit receives a feedback on how well the different types of motivation means work on the individual animals in a herd. In view of this information, it is possible to use certain types of motivation means more frequently for specific animals in a herd in order to reduce the time delays between the milking processes in the milking stall in an optimal manner. Said parameter may be related to the time difference between the earliest time when the animal has the opportunity to leave the milking stall after a milking process and the real time at which the animal leaves the milking stall. By means of this parameter, it is possible to identify which animals in a herd leaving the milking stall substantially immediately and which animals in the herd leaving the milking stall after a certain time period has passed.

"According to an embodiment of the invention, the device comprises a detecting member adapted to detect when an animal leaves the milking stall. Such a detecting member may be an already existing positioning sensor in the milking stall configured to detect the position of the animal in the milking stall. By means of information from the detecting member, it is possible for the control unit to measure the real time at which an animal leaves the milking stall. Furthermore, the control unit may stop the activation of the unit when it receives information from the detecting member informing that an animal has left the milking stall.

"According to an embodiment of the invention, the control unit is also configured to have the option not to activate any of the units when it is time for an animal to leave the milking stall. The animals in a herd are different. Usually, most animals in a herd leave the milking stall substantially immediately every time when they have been milking. By identifying this group of animals in a herd, it is possible for the control unit to select the option not to activate any of the units when it is time for such an animal to leave the milking stall because these animals do not need to be subjected to the motivation means. The control unit may receive information about the quantity of milk produced during each milking process in the milking stall. If the control unit notes that the quantity of milk decreases for a specific animal when the motivation means has been used, the control unit may have the option not to activate any of the motivation means the following times this animal has to leave the milking stall.

"Advantageously, the control unit may be configured not to activate any of the units during periods when the influx of animals to the milking stall is low. The control unit may, for example, not activate any of the units during times of the day and the night when few animals want to be milked. In case the animals have to enter a waiting area before they enter the milking stall, the control unit may be configured to receive information about the numbers of animal in the waiting area. In case the number of animals in the waiting area is lower when a predetermined number, the control unit may not activate any of the units.

"According to an embodiment of the invention, the control unit is configured to activate at least one of the units with a predetermined time delay after the earliest time at which the animal has the opportunity to leave the milking stall and if the detection member detects that the animal has left the milking stall within said predetermined time delay, the control unit is configured to prevent the activation of the unit. In most cases, it takes a number of seconds for an animal to leave the milking stall. The predetermined time delay may correspond to the normal time it takes for an animal to leave the milking stall. The animals may here learn to leave the milking stall within the predetermined time delay in order to avoid that a motivation means is activated.

"According to a further embodiment of the invention, the milking stall is associated with an exit gate controlled by the control unit. In order to control the cow traffic from the milking stall, it is favorable to use an exit gate. When the control unit opens the exit gate, it is time for the animal to leave the milking stall. The milking stall may comprise a milking robot configured to attach teat cups to the teats of an animal in the milking stall. Since milking stalls with milking robots are expensive, it is necessary that such milking stalls are capable to milk a relatively large herd of milking animals. It is therefore especially preferable to use the device in such milking stalls because it ensures that the animals substantially always leave the milking stall in time resulting in that unnecessary delays between the milking processes in the milking stall are avoided.

"According to an embodiment of the invention, the device is arranged in a milking stall on a rotary platform. In this kind of milking stalls, it is also important that the animals leave the milking stall substantially immediately when the milking stall arrives to an exit area. Otherwise the platform becomes stationary for a time and a cow to be milked has to wait until the milking stall becomes vacant.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"In the following, preferred embodiments of the invention are described by examples and with references to the attached drawings, on which:

"FIG. 1 shows a view, from the above, of a milking stall with a device according to a first embodiment of the invention and

"FIG. 2 shows a milking stall on a rotary platform with a device according to a second embodiment of the invention."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Axelson, Johan; Gudmundsson, Mats. Device to Motivate an Animal to Leave a Milking Stall. Filed July 6, 2012 and posted June 19, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=7185&p=144&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140612.PD.&OS=PD/20140612&RS=PD/20140612

Keywords for this news article include: Robotics, Machine Learning, Delaval Holding Ab, Emerging Technologies.

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Source: Politics & Government Week


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