Nutrition for the robotic milking unit

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There are a number of key drivers for a robot unit to work with in order to maximise efficiency and profitability.

The chart below shows some of these drivers, with balanced nutrition at the top:

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Balanced nutrition through concentrates

Concentrates are one of the main considerations on a robotic milking unit as they encourage visits to the robot. Cows are attracted by the concentrates not the milking operation. Did you know early lactation cows are ‘hungrier’ so come more often and late lactation cows get less concentrates.

The amount of concentrates fed should be controlled to maintain maximum rumen health.

  • Maximum of 3.5 kg per visit
  • 2.0 – 4.5 times per day
  • Increase concentrates by about 300g per day
  • Reduced by 100g per day after peak yield
  • Extra concentrates should go through out of parlour feeder
  • Minimum per visit of 0.75kg if less offered cows will stop visiting

The other concentrate considerations would be to put two feeds through the robot, one lower protein/higher energy for early lactation and one for milk persistency as higher protein for later lactation. Liquid dispensers for glycol/glycerine products would complete the picture.

Balancing the base mix

The starting point for balancing the nutrition in the base mix is the accuracy of the forage analyses. ForFarmers would advocate the use of Dry NIR analysis for greater accuracy over the more traditional wet NIR, research has shown Dry NIR is closer to pure wet chemistry results and therefore provides greater accuracy. Our Silage Manager+ service provides all the traditional analyses alongside extra F2M nutrients, which flow through our formulation systems into our Optifeed rationing program.

Balancing the base mix, through any rationing program, for the robotic unit must take rumen health into account. For more information please see our rumen health article.

Consideration of all the other nutrients will then follow, from overall energy supply through types of energy (starch, sugars, oils, digestible fibres) to protein balance (rumen available, true digestible and by-pass) and the correct mineralisation.

A balanced base mix, presented consistently and well will encourage cows to get up and eat the mix, increase their dry matter intakes and visit the robot to be milked.

A recent survey on base mix presentation, on robotic units showed:

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Nutrition for the robotic milking unit

Although there are some critical factors to consider, there are a large range which need to be taken into account. They all important in their own right.

Some of these factors include:

  • Dry cow feeding
  • Condition score
  • Rumen health
  • Lameness
  • PMR
  • Out of parlour feeders
  • Grazing
  • Compound choice

The correct nutrition through successful rationing and consideration of all these factors, will help allow your cows to reach their performance potential.

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