The harvesting of raw milk for the New Zealand dairy industry is a labour intensive process. Technology to completely automate the milk-harvesting process has been developed in Europe and is operating on an increasing number of commercial farms in several countries. A research programme has been established at Dexcel to develop innovative pasture-based farm systems utilising existing automated milking technology. A new farm layout was designed and implemented on a 10 ha farmlet. The land was radially subdivided into eight paddocks leading to a central collection area. A 200-m two-way race extended between the collection area and a small waiting yard adjoining a Fullwood Merlin automated milking system (AMS). Water was only available in the central collection area, the holding yard and as cows exited the AMS. Cows had access to the AMS for 24h/day where they received a maximum of 2kg concentrate/ 24h. A herd of 41 mixed-age cows was milked in the farm system. Data for a 14-day period in October when cows had settled into the system were analysed. Cows voluntarily visited the AMS 2.7 times/24h and were milked 2.3 times/24h. Visits were distributed over 24h with the lowest number of visits occurring between 0330 and 0600. Cows demonstrated remarkable adaptability in a distributed AMS and there appears to be considerable potential for AMS within New Zealand’s pasture-based farming system.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 62, Palmerston North, 115-119, 2002
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