Other factors play a role, of course, but cows that are milked more frequently tend to give more milk. That is one of the major opportunities of a robotic milking system.

To capitalize on that benefit, cows need to visit the robots on their own accord. These habits are often formed in early lactation, and that is why Jim Salfer, a University of Minnesota extension educator, believes precalving management is even more critical in a voluntary milking situation than it is in a conventional system.

During the May Hoard’s Dairyman monthly webinar, Salfer explained that we rely on cows to get themselves to the robot, and if they are not feeling well in early lactation, visits may be infrequent. This highlights the need for a transition cow program that gets cows off to a good start.

Salfer recommended a stocking rate of 80% to 90% for prefresh cows, along with at least 30 inches of bunk space. He also encouraged producers to pay close attention to fresh cows, making rumination, activity, and manure observations daily.

“If we have really good diet and precalving management, that’s going to promote high post-calving intake,” he said.

If fresh cows are up and eating, they feel better, are more active, and want to get to the robot. More robot visits promote more milk production, which, in turn, drives intake and completes the circle, Salfer shared.

Salfer also noted the importance of excellent nutrition in an automated milking system. The goal of any feeding program, he said, is to meet the needs of the cows while maintaining cow health and optimizing milk and components in a way that is labor efficient and cost effective. In an automated system, there is the intersection between the farmer, the cows, the nutritional needs, and the robot.

The pellets fed through the robot require attention, but so does the partial mixed ration (PMR) delivered to the feedbunk. Salfer reminded listeners that 80% to 90% of the ration nutrients are supplied through the PMR.

“That PMR is really important in making a robotic system successful,” he said. “It supports high milk production but also drives cows to the robot.”

To learn more, watch the Hoard’s Dairyman webinar, “Managing and feeding cows in a robotic milking system.” This webinar was sponsored by AMS Galaxy.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
May 30, 2024
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