Case studies were undertaken of six New Zealand farmers who have adopted automatic milking systems (AMS). Data were collected during spring 2014. Farmer experience with AMS ranged from one to four years. Three farms were in the Waikato and three were in Canterbury. Two farms use barns with fully-confined cows, two use pasture-based systems with year-round pasture access, and two use hybrid systems where cows confinement for varying times depending on season. The key focus was on documenting farmer experience. All six farmers met innovator criteria and were driven by the challenge of making the system work. Farmers reported per cow production above their previous dairying experience and expectations. Cows-per-robot ranged from 50 to 80 and were higher on pasture systems where daily milkings per cow were lower relative to confined systems. Annual milksolids production ranged from 30,000 to 42,900 kg per robot. Total labour requirements did not always change but the type of labour did change. Initial training of cows was stressful for farmers and time consuming. Farmers emphasised that it was a total change of system requiring new ways of thinking. Farmers perceived capital cost as the major adoption constraint but remained positive about the future of AMS.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 75, Dunedin, 127-131, 2015
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