Six Synergy vets recently attended a half day meeting hosted by our local Lely dealership to further develop our knowledge of robotic milking systems. As motivated dairy cattle vets we consider it vital that we remain abreast of the latest technology in order to offer the best veterinary advice, as well as added insight when new units are planned.
We have at least 10 herds across the practice, including the highest yielding six Lely robot herd in the UK (an impressive 41.6 litres/cow/day), and the highest yielding cross bred herd. Many other units are either planned or in construction, even in these difficult financial times.
Our discussions related to a number of the challenges associated with robotic dairy farming some of which are included below:
! Mastitis detection using conductivity and the risk of “false positives”
! Maximising cow comfort by the use of deep bedded cubicles, to include the merits of sand vs green bedding vs sawdust
! Changes in cow body weight – is this relevant when trying to assess energy intakes and monitor condition loss?
! The balance between feeding at the feed fence (to support high yields) and encouraging visits to the robot (through cake feeding) to allow multiple milkings per day
! Optimising cow flow to maximise easy access to the robot, especially for low ranking cows
! The remarkable persistence of heifer lactations on a robotic system
! Siting of foot baths to optimise foot health, cow flow and ease of operation
! Rumination and activity collars – how these help to identify sick cows and those in heat
We also spent time taking apart the teat brushes and liners from a commissioned robot to fully understand the mechanism of pre and post milking teat preparation, and its vital role in milk hygiene and quality.