New Zealand pastoral dairy farming presents unique challenges for combining automatic milking systems (AMS), including long walking distances, large herds, year round pasturing and a predominately fresh pasture diet. This paper describes a system designed to minimise walking, maximise the efficiency of AMS utilisation and enable control of individual cow milking frequency by remotely selecting cows for milking up to 400 m from the dairy. Cows report to a selection unit (SU) located in the centre of a block of pasture and linked via raceways to the AMS. Entry is via one-way gates and exit via a computer controlled drafting gate, which directs the cow either to the dairy or the paddock depending on time since last milking. A communication cable connects the SU to the AMS server in the dairy. Cows wear an electronic identification device. Water and pasture access act as incentives for cows to enter the SU. Cows readily learned to use the SU and were observed visiting the unit at every hour over 24 hours. Twenty-seven cows were assigned to either a 6h or 12h minimum milking interval (MMI). On average, cows visited the SU 4.5 and 5.5 times/d for the 6h MMI and 12h MMI groups, respectively, and achieved a milking frequency of 1.9 and 1.4 milkings/d, respectively. Results showed that milking frequency can be controlled via a system for remotely selecting cows for milking and that access to fresh pasture is a strong factor in motivating cow traffic through the SU.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 64, Hamilton, 241-245, 2004
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