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    Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 1 March 2006 Referencing Hub media

    The Greenfield AMS collects a huge amount of information about each of the individual cows in the herd. This provides useful indications of cow health, system efficiency, and even pasture quality. Farm management is very important to ensure that the system is working well. Kendra Davis and Jenny Jago explain.


    Dr Kendra Davis (DairyNZ)

    The kinds of data that are being collected automatically about each cow on the farm is just phenomenal. At any one time I could look at the computer and say where a particular cow is, whether she is in the paddock, whether she’s on her way to the dairy, or waiting at the dairy, or in a machine. It’s really important from a monitoring point of view that we can get an indication of how often cows are going into selection units to have a drink. Now a selection unit is a small area on the farm that really controls the cow traffic. So a cow just doesn’t walk out of the paddock and bring herself to the dairy. She has to go through a series of gates and she is drafted so that she can only come to the dairy at certain times and things. So we have a really good record of the cow traffic, so we can see how often cows are getting an opportunity to drink. We can see cows that aren’t moving around the system. That might be an indication to us that there might be something wrong with the cow. Maybe she has got a sore foot, she is lame, maybe she is deficient in some mineral.

    If we detect those kinds of things about individual cows we can change the settings for that cow so that we can maybe tell the machine when she does come up, to draft her out the side so that we can have a look at her when we’re around. But it might also be that we might be concerned enough that we actually go out and do something.

    Dr Jenny Jago (DairyNZ)

    We have a lot of focus on maximising the milk per robotic milker, or per Automatic Milking System. And really to achieve that we focus on a couple of things. We design our farm and our systems to try and make sure we have cows there waiting to be milked throughout the 24 hours. Now that can be quite difficult because the cows will typically rest, particularly around 2 o’clock in the morning, so between two and six in the morning it’s very quiet at the dairy.

    As well as making sure there are cows there and smartly going into the machine for milking, we look at the milking process as well to try and get that as quick as possible. It takes about 9 to 10 minutes for a cow to be milked, so we have some focus on trying to quicken that process up. So we look at that milking machine itself, so that if we can reduce that time by a minute, so lets say it only takes 9 minutes to milk a cow, that gives us about 3 extra hours of milking time in the day.

    The other area that is important is the selection of the cows - getting the cows that are the most suited to the automatic milking. So that is the high yielding cows, the quick milkers. That is really important, because if you’ve a cow that takes 20 minutes to give 10 litres, that is very inefficient use of that milking slot. We prefer to have a cow that gives 20 litres in 10 minutes.

    Dr Kendra Davis (DairyNZ)

    While it’s really important that we have the behaviour of the cows sorted, so that the cows can bring themselves to the dairy and milk themselves, it’s also really important that we are managing the farm properly so that we have got a system that is actually commercially viable. And the key things there are doing things like maintaining pasture quality. There are a lot of things predominantly around the cows themselves which sort of rolls on from the pasture management. So if we are doing a good job at maintaining pasture quality and feeding the cows properly, then the rest of it sort of flows on from there. But the cows are often an indication that we might not have the pasture management quite right.