“We don’t have robot cows and nonrobot cows,” Cornell’s Paul Virkler said as way of introducing his comments during the November 17 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream. “Cows are cows, so we certainly have seen situations where extending that lag time and making sure we have good stimulation on robotic dairies has done what we would think it would do. Make a better cow and create better letdown.”
While studies verifying the exact ways that stimulation can be achieved in automated milkings are still underway, Virkler and his fellow commentator Roger Thomson, who also researches milking procedures at Michigan State, emphasized the importance of adhering to proper lag time and stimulation.
It’s hard to mimic
“At the end of the day, what are we doing?” Ferry Farms’ Scott Ferry posed the question during the webcast sponsored by Diamond V. “We’re trying to emulate a calf bumping the udder. Let’s not forget the roots of what we’re doing.”
That’s what makes stimulation both in a parlor and especially in a robot difficult. Cows let down their milk when they are signaled to do so by nerve endings in the teat. The purpose of stimulation is to hit those nerve endings and signal the cow that it’s time to let the milk down.
When farms use other types of milk preparation from a brush type automated prep to a jacuzzi cup prep or even simply wiping without forestripping the teat, something might be missing.
“The hallmark of looking for mastitis is forestripping, but I think we’ve undervalued its part in stimulating,” detailed Thomson. “The one thing we’ve always done by hand that’s not been replaced in any of the automatic systems is forestripping.”
It’s a piece that Thomson considers critical to stimulation and milk letdown. Forestripping is the step of the milk preparation process that most nearly mimics the actions of the calf, and the panelists urged listeners to carefully consider its addition to or retention in milk prep.
To watch the recording of the November 17 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is now also available as an audio-only podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and downloadable from the Hoard’s Dairyman website.
An ongoing series of events
The next broadcast of DairyLivestream will be on Wednesday, December 8 at 11 a.m. CST. Each episode is designed for panelists to answer over 30 minutes of audience questions. If you haven’t joined a DairyLivestream broadcast yet, register here for free. Registering once registers you for all future events.