Preparing dairy cows for robotic milking

Successful launch of his milking robot may require some changes related to genetics and herd management.

The decision has been made, the milking parlor will soon give way to one or more milking robots. Once planning, funding, or organization issues have been resolved, it’s time to prepare your cows for change.

1. Perfect cow

To create a herd of “compatible robots”, work is needed on the prevention and genetics of dairy cows. And this is months or even years before the robotic transition.

“You have to pay attention to the quality of the limbs and the health of the foot in order to facilitate animal movement and access to the robot,” warns Olivier Véron, nutrition referent at Littoral Normand. Genetic selection can help, as well as arranging pruning sites at least once a quarter. These sites allow for the treatment of lame cows as well as, and above all, “control of primiparous cows at the beginning of lactation and cows at the end of lactation to start a new cycle with healthy legs”. If the selected robot is not equipped with a bovine hoof disinfection system, a foot bath is recommended.

around the chest. Good length and nipple implantation, not too tight and not too far apart, becomes the new priority axis of choice to ease the task of robot recognition. Milk production and milking speed are also important, especially on a saturated robot. For quality milk, the Breast Health Index comes to the rescue. As a bonus, “we take care of the hygiene of the body, we cut the tails and rub the udder with wax!”

“When you run the robot, you should have more than 90% healthy cows at the cellular level and not reveal any lameness,” the expert concludes.

2. Correct composition

A stall can hold an average of 50 to 60 dairy cows at startup. In order not to overload it from the early days, it is better to set up a workforce upstream. “Animals with musculoskeletal or udder disorders can be culled,” suggests Olivier Veron.

To avoid traffic jams, it is equally important to manage peak traffic. The phasing of calving and the desire for a limited interval between two calvings helps regulate traffic, with a constant number of robots throughout the year and heterogeneity in lactation stages. Alternate calving is also recommended for heifers to “reduce the wasted time associated with the training phase,” the expert elaborates.

3. Adjusted diet

If not already done, the arrival of the robot marks the transition to a half-nutrition diet. In this perspective, “the ration at the trough should be balanced 5-8 kg of milk below herd productivity.” Supplementation by robot should range from 800g to 7kg concentrates. No less, to attract cows, but no more, so as not to underestimate the feed in the main diet.

Finally, “to limit the stress of the animals and their habituation to the new installation”, it is advisable not to combine the arrival of the robot, the feeding transition and the exit to the pasture in the same period. One revolution at a time!

Moving on: the video “What if we robotize milking?” on the Littoral Normand YouTube channel

Grazing Compatibility

Robotic milking and grazing go hand in hand. Under certain conditions. After seeing the scheme given to the cows, you still have to motivate them. For attractive grazing, Louis Jaquin, robot consultant at Littoral Normand, recommends “a minimum of two wire-guided units per day less than 800m from the barn.” It is expected to provide water points in each paddock and stabilized and non-traumatic access routes.

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