Piecing together automated milking success

ForFarmers UK Robotics Product Manager Bas van Santen gives his tips for creating the foundations for optimal success with robotic milking.

Robotic Milking
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Start with forage

Forage should be your number one consideration. The most profitable farms are those that make top notch silages and produce a large amount of milk from forage.

At the feed fence offer a balanced diet with around 16.5-17% crude protein. Or, if you’re just feeding silage at the feed fence you will need to offer two different compounds in the robot in order to target cows according to their lactation stage.

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Compound feed

A compound that is 10% higher in energy should be fed in the robot and it must be palatable to motivate the cows to come and be milked. Changes in the formulation can affect cow behaviour both positively and negatively.

Having the right compound feed saves on labour as most cows will visit the robot by themselves.

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Cow signals

Be alert to what your cows are telling you via their behaviour. Your cows will tell you if they are happy. We recommend the Cow Signals approach which focuses on six aspects – feed, water, light, air, rest and space. It explores how behaviour can indicate issues and help identify areas to improve herd health and welfare. For more on this read Bruce Forshaw’s advice.

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Goal setting

Setting goals is particularly important for robotic herds. Not every farmer is striving for the same things – goals can be related to herd health, milk yield, lifestyle or profit. Knowing what your priorities are will inform how data is used and the advice your ForFarmers robotic specialist gives you. Your goals will also influence the decision you make going forward.

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Robot maintenance

Be meticulous with robot maintenance. Whoever installed your robots should have given you a thorough induction to include all the checks you need to perform daily, weekly, and monthly and what needs replacing and when. Keep to this regime without fail, so your robot can perform at its best. Servicing, in accordance with the plan set out by the manufacturer, should also not be forgotten.

Missing small tasks like cleaning air bleed holes might only increase milking time by a few seconds per visit, but that can eventually add up to a lot of wasted robot time.

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OptiRobot is a ForFarmers tool that monitors the performance of your system. It can analyse data from six robot manufacturers and displays it in easy-to understand graphs and tables giving unique insight into what is going on at individual cow level. With that knowledge we can fine tune robot settings in accordance with the farmer’s goals.

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