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Impact of automatic milking systems on dairy cattle producers’ reports of milking labour management, milk production and milk quality

  • C. Tse (a1), H. W. Barkema (a1), T. J. DeVries (a2), J. Rushen (a3) and E. A. Pajor (a1)...


Automatic milking systems (AMS), or milking robots, are becoming widely accepted as a milking technology that reduces labour and increases milk yield. However, reported amount of labour saved, changes in milk yield, and milk quality when transitioning to AMS vary widely. The purpose of this study was to document the impact of adopting AMS on farms with regards to reported changes in milking labour management, milk production, milk quality, and participation in dairy herd improvement (DHI) programmes. A survey was conducted across Canada over the phone, online, and in-person. In total, 530 AMS farms were contacted between May 2014 and the end of June 2015. A total of 217 AMS producers participated in the General Survey (Part 1), resulting in a 41% response rate, and 69 of the respondents completed the more detailed follow-up questions (Part 2). On average, after adopting AMS, the number of employees (full- and part-time non-family labour combined) decreased from 2.5 to 2.0, whereas time devoted to milking-related activities decreased by 62% (from 5.2 to 2.0 h/day). Median milking frequency was 3.0 milkings/day and robots were occupied on average 77% of the day. Producers went to fetch cows a median of 2 times/day, with a median of 3 fetch cows or 4% of the herd per robot/day. Farms had a median of 2.5 failed or incomplete milkings/robot per day. Producers reported an increase in milk yield, but little effect on milk quality. Mean milk yield on AMS farms was 32.6 kg/cow day. Median bulk tank somatic cell count was 180 000 cells/ml. Median milk fat on AMS farms was 4.0% and median milk protein was 3.3%. At the time of the survey, 67% of producers were current participants of a DHI programme. Half of the producers who were not DHI participants had stopped participation after adopting AMS. Overall, this study characterized impacts of adopting AMS and may be a useful guide for making this transition.


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