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Can dairies achieve 100 pounds per cow in a robot barn?

Paul Berdell for Progressive Dairyman Published on 31 March 2017
Imporved data and reporting helps producers

It’s a question most dairy producers ask when looking to make the switch to robotic milking: How will this impact my milk production?

Many producers anticipate robotic milking will help boost milk production, but is it possible to reach 100 pounds per cow?

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While switching from a conventional parlor to a robotic milking system can help you boost production, robots alone aren’t enough. Good cow management, a comfortable environment and optimal dry matter intake are essential to reach the 100-pounds-per-cow milestone.

Environment

The change in cow environment that comes with a robotic milking system plays the largest role in helping boost milk production. With robotic milking, cows have more control over when and how often to visit the robot, resulting in less time waiting in a stressful holding pen and more time lying down or eating.

Cows can milk, eat and lie down according to their individual needs rather than adjusting to fit the farm’s schedule.

Customized rations based on individual cows' productin level and lacataion stage can help boost production

Robotic milking systems also create more environment consistency. With milking, feeding and resting all occurring in the same barn, it reduces stress caused by changes in the cows’ environment.

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This consistency translates into the milking process. In robotic milking systems, the milking process is fully automated to ensure milking is always consistent with proper stimulation times, udder prep and teat cup removal to help optimize every milk harvest session.

By eliminating the human deviation factor in the milking process, a more comfortable environment is created for the cows since the milking process will occur the same way every time they step into the robot.

A consistent, low-stress environment allows cows to focus on one thing: making milk.

Dry matter intake

The other largest impact on milk production is dry matter intake. It’s a simple equation: The more cows eat, the more milk they produce. The challenge is how to achieve an increase in dry matter intake.

With conventional parlors, it can be difficult to get cows to consume enough dry matter intake because, on average, cows have fewer opportunities to visit the feedbunk. Robotic milking systems allow for freer bunk access, giving cows more opportunities to eat throughout the day.

With less time spent in the holding area and a less regimented milking schedule, cows have more control over when and how often they eat. For maximum milk production, feed intake should be spread over multiple meals, with cows consuming 10 to 14 meals per day.

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Customized feed rations

You can also maximize production with robotic systems by production-based pellet feeding in the robot, in addition to offering a high-quality ration at the bunk. Customized rations based on individual cows’ production level and lactation stage can help boost production for your entire herd.

Robotic milking systems allow you to control how much and what type of feed each cow receives during visits to the robot. Focus on pellet quality, ingredients, quantity and palatability when selecting individual concentrate rations.

Management

It’s not just up to the cows to produce more milk. Good cow management always plays a role in milk production. Robotic milking systems provide an advantage in cow management through improved data and reporting.

You can see what every single cow is producing, how much they are eating, rumination times, how often they are visiting the robot, how much time they spend lying down and more. With this information, you can make quicker adjustments to cow environment and feed rations to help improve cow comfort and performance and, in turn, production.

An investment in a robotic milking system can help you improve milk production, but you need to set your cows up for success. It takes a combination of an environment with a focus on cow comfort, thorough herd management and a feeding program that capitalizes on dry matter intake to reach the goal of 100 pounds of milk per cow.

Work with your robotic milking specialist, nutritionist and veterinarian to learn more about how to maximize milk production in a robotic barn.  end mark

PHOTO 1: With improved data and reporting, producers can make quicker adjustments to cow environment and feed rations.

PHOTO 2: Customized rations based on individual cows’ production level and lactation stage can help boost production for your whole herd. Photos courtesy of GEA.

Paul Berdell
  • Paul Berdell

  • Robotic Milking Sales Specialist
  • GEA
  • Email Paul Berdell

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