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Robotic Webinar Questions

Hello everyone, and thank you again for joining our Always Robot Ready Webinar. We trust you found the meeting insightful and that it got you thinking around your robotic system or potential robotic system.

As promised we’ve collated the questions from the meeting and provided responses below.

Should foot health be at the top of the list of efficiency drivers?

Various UK farm based studies have quoted up to 32% of UK dairy herd is lame or suffering some hoof impairment that is restrictive in respect of walking/standing. A cow with healthy feet will walk approx. 1.5miles/day in a shed. This is essential for visiting the robots and the feed bunker, but also assists with overall health through promoting vascular activity and blood flow around her body. With bad feet, we tend to see visits and feed intake reduce. We should also consider the potential hidden costs, the visits and intakes could well be just the tip of the iceberg.

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What are the pros and cons of feeding rumen energy precursors such as Propylene Glycol and when feeding such products how much should be fed, to which cows, and for how many days?

Certainly the palatability of a standard Propylene Glycol product can be a challenge. It is very bitter and as a cow has two and a half times the number of taste receptors than a human, she is very quick to pick this up. She can distinguish four primary tastes salty, sweet, bitter and sour. So it can at too high a level actually supress intakes. However fed correctly, a blended, specifically formulated product can remove any intake suppression.

Feed rates depend on what you are trying to correct? Studies show propylene glycol increases milk production, and reduces the mobilisation of adipose tissue, but there is very little conclusive evidence that it actually decreases the incidences of Ketosis. Academic studies/papers would suggest feed rates ranging from 200-700g/head/day, (even 900g/head/day in early lactation). The concern with feeding at these higher levels, is the lack of research, data available with regards to the impact on overall dry matter intakes.

On the basis that the base diet is balanced both chemically and physically, intakes are good, and visits are at the level we would expect then we would look at 250g/head/day (0-30 DiM) and then 100g/head/day (31-40 DiM).

If you were to focus on one key area when it comes to robotics what would it be?

There is really no one key area as such, but if we were to identify one based on its potential to be ‘the’ greatest limiting factor it would be the dry cow period, specifically the close up dry period, i.e. that last three weeks before calving. This is where we give ourselves the perfect foundation, or not, for supporting the cow in the best way we can to express her natural potential.

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In your experience what are the biggest blockers on farm?

We can be overburden with information, its knowing which information is of practical importance for the correct decisions to be made. But with this comes a downside, in that we put a great deal of faith the info is 100% correct, which it is based on what it’s looking at. So quite often it’s a number of small areas that individually are not problematic, but once combined risk becoming a greater blocker. Transition Cow management is the most crucial time. If we get it right for the cow, she is incredibly adaptable to the other things we don’t get quite right during her lactation.

Forage quality and consistency is also paramount. Cows thrive on consistency, it’s the foundation for the diet, but will also dictate our ability to manage feed conversion efficiency and feed costs.

Cow flow, is the other factor to mention and comes in two parts. In the first instance hoof health and lameness. That’s not just identifying the severe cases, but the underlying trends and issues that are harder to identify but are equally as important as the animals we see physically struggling. For every lame cow we can see, there could be another 2 or 3 that are approaching that stage if they remain undetected and that has a massive impact on intakes plus feed visits. The next part to cow flow is building layout, robot access, and comfortable cubicles for rest.

For more information

For more information and insights like these, please look out for the launch of our Robotic Milking Club, coming in September 2021!

In the meantime please do reach out to your local ruminant or robot specialist or contact us through any of the below channels to request a review visit to learn more around how you could drive efficiency on your robotic milking unit.

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