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The effect of pasture quantity temporal variation on milking robot utilization
- John, A.J., Cullen, B.R., Oluboyede, K., Freeman, M.J., Kerrisk, K.L., Garcia, S.C., Clark, C.E.F.
- Journal of dairy science 2019 v.102 no.3 pp. 2551-2559
- cows, diurnal variation, farms, feeding methods, grazing, habituation, herds, milking, milking machines, pastures, robots, traffic, Netherlands, Victoria (Australia)
- In pasture-based automatic milking systems (AMS), a decrease in robot utilization (RU) often occurs in the early morning hours. Novel feeding strategies that encourage voluntary cow traffic throughout 24 h could help mitigate this problem. We determined the effect of 3 distinct pasture allocation methods on RU patterns throughout a 24-h period. The experiment was conducted at the University of Melbourne's Dookie research farm in northern Victoria, Australia. Three Lely Astronaut A3 robotic milking units (Lely, Maassluis, the Netherlands) milked 133 cows, grazing pasture, with concentrate offered at milking in the robots. The farm operated a system of 3-way grazing, with active access to each pasture allocation: 2030–0400 h (allocation A), 0400–1330 h (allocation B), and 1330–2030 h (allocation C). Treatments varied in the quantity of feed offered per hour of active access to each of the 3 pasture allocations. The control treatment offered the same proportion of feed (corrected for active access time) in all 3 pasture allocations (allocation A = 31.3%, B = 39.6%, and C = 29.2%). The day treatment offered the largest proportion of feed during the day (allocation A = 20%, B = 40%, and C = 40%), following the cows' diurnal pattern of feeding activity. The night treatment offered the largest proportion of feed at night (allocation A = 42%, B = 40%, and C = 18%). Due to the nature of pasture-based AMS, treatments could not be applied simultaneously. Therefore, treatments were applied to the entire herd and repeated twice over 42 d, lasting 7 d/treatment, with the first 3 d for habituation, followed by 4 d of data collection. Robot utilization (milkings/h) varied throughout 24 h between treatments, with the night treatment recording greater RU at 0800, 1800, and 1900 h and lower RU between 2100 to 0100 h, compared with the day treatment. The proportion of the herd milking between 0000 and 0600 h was greater for the control (43.3%) and day (45.3%) treatments compared with the night treatment (25.8%). Herd-average daily pasture intake was similar (10.5 kg of dry matter) for all treatments. This experiment is the first to demonstrate the manipulation of RU by varying the quantity of pasture offered. However, the use of variable allocation alone did not eliminate the decrease in RU between 0000 and 0600 h, with the timing of allocation also likely to play a role. We recommend a further research focus on combining both timing and quantity of pasture allocated to improve RU in pasture-based AMS.