WA College of Agriculture, Denmark, will "leap to the front" of dairy industry training with the launch of its robotic dairy at an open day on Saturday, September 3.
The college, which has 125 Year 10, 11 and 12 students, is the first Australian school to install a voluntary robotic milking system and only the third WA dairy to do so.
It required a $2 million investment over three years, including construction of a purpose-built greenfields dairy to house robotic milking stations, new smart-gate yarding and laneways and a reorganisation of the college's entire dairy farming system.
As part of providing practical experience at a range of farming activities, the college runs a commercial dairy herd on a 560 hectare farm and sells its milk to Harvey Fresh.
All students are involved in helping the college's farm supervisor and dairy manager run the farm and have been involved in helping retrain cows to accept the new milking system.
Cows are identified by electronic ear tags which the system uses to monitor and regulate movement, deliver a supplementary feed ration and allow access to the robotic milking stations.
"It was an opportunity for us to leap to the front of the dairy industry and to train our students for the future," said principal Kevin Beal this week of the decision to buy the DeLaval robots in 2014.
"Our previous conventional dairy was commissioned back in the 1960s and needed replacing anyway, and this is the direction in which the industry is ultimately headed - it frees time up and reduces labour cost.
"We are very proud to be the first (school with a robotic dairy).
"We have already shown it off to all the South Coast dairy farmers who came here to have a look - that was organised with Western Dairy."
Mr Beal said the new system still involved students in traditional aspects of managing a dairy herd, such as allocating pasture feed.
Allow too much pasture and cows will not leave the paddock to be milked, allow too little and cows will spend their time at the dairy trying to get in to get a feed ration.
But it also took them into new areas of computing in maintaining a herd data base, using the system's abilities to deliver individual feed rations to individual cows and to detect, divert and hold cows that need treatment, Mr Beal said.