Robot Milking at Grass

June 29, 2017

There is an increased popularity in the installation of automatic milkers or robots across the UK dairy industry.

This brings improvement in lifestyle, reduces physical work, and increased profitability with higher milk production as well as lowered labour costs.

It is predicted that up to 20 per cent of cows in Europe will be milked by robots by 2020. However, while indoor feeding systems have been well adapted to robotic milking, grazing systems have not.

As with any robotic milking system the key factor is for the cow to visit the robots for milking. For a grazing unit utilising robotic milking, key factors in this system are the availability of fresh grass, concentrates in the robot and water.

In order to maintain visits when grazing, tightening grazing availability can be used to drive the cows to the robot. This can be done using three areas of grazing land, also called the ABC system.

Cows graze defined areas or portions of each of the three grazing sections during each 24-hour period. It is recommended that cows are allocated 5kg DM in each of the three grazing sections (AB and C) over each 24-hour period.

During the May/June period cows graze areas with grass covers of 1,400-1,500kg DM/ha. Grass covers greater than 1,500kg DM/ha could discourage cow movement to the robot and may reduce milking frequency. Cows graze to a post-grazing height of 3.5-4.0cm.

With no water available in the paddocks cows will have to visit the milking yard to get water. Therefore in an ABC grazing system cows have the opportunity to drink water in the yard at least three times a day on their way to new pasture. Copper and magnesium can be added to prevent deficiencies due to the lowered amount of mineralised compound fed in a grazing system.

Silage can also be buffer fed to reduce concentrate use and supplement grazed grass. During dry spells, silage can be fed to allow the grazing pastures to get ahead of the cows.

Author: Samuel Wellock

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