15th October 2017 - Animal welfare improvements will help drive future uptake in milking robots in New Zealand, said DeLaval’s Voluntary Milking Systems expert Grant Vickers.
Mr Vickers said the opportunity to use technology to create a more natural and comfortable existence for cows is increasingly appealing to farmers.
“If you look at what's driving the trend for robotics overseas, you have farmers wanting more flexible work days, less time chained to the shed, and wanting to encourage a younger generation to the farm. These are all things that are very relevant here in New Zealand too,” he said.
Voluntary Milking Systems allow cows to be milked when and how often they choose. The system treats them as individuals and helps remove stress from the milking cycle.
To achieve animal welfare gains, Mr Vickers said it’s important to design a whole farm system that supports regular voluntary milking. At DeLaval, he works closely with farmers to develop the individual grazing systems that allow for successful individualised milking.
“All the components of normal milking - the entry, cups on and cup off, exit - are all automated and don't require the farmer there at the time. We tend to see cows choosing to milk anywhere from 2 – 4 times in 24 hours,” he explained.
Delaval’s data management system DelPro captures every cow’s production data so farmers can see exact yield and any chances instantly. This level of detail supports improved health and welfare in a VMS system by giving early indication of any problems.
“You look at the research around animal welfare in a robotic system and you see reduced cases of mastitis, better body condition scoring, greater fertility all the key markers going in a positive direction. And that's because the cow is really taking charge of her own day, and also the data that the system captures allows farmers to identify any problems far earlier in the piece,” he said.