Feeding strategies and robotic milking

During the ‘Cows in the cloud, down to earth’ Farm Management Symposium, Gerrit Meulenaar gave a presentation about different feeding strategies and robotic milking.

Management, Feeding, Milking

Robotic milking and production research

Recent research carried out by the Dutch breeding and milk-recording organization CRV showed some interesting results. Altogether 85% of Dutch farmers are connected to CRV. Among other things there are two interesting conclusions from this research that we want to highlight. The first is that Lely Astronaut farms appear to have 20% more cows/farm than conventional farms. Secondly, the average milk production per cow is 10% higher on Lely Astronaut farms. These are interesting outcomes in themselves, but what does this mean for feeding the dairy cows?

More than one strategy

If we look at figure 1, we see a benchmark comparison of pounds of concentrates per 220 lb milk against milkings per cow, refusals per cow and milk production per cow per day. We see a variation in milk production, but all with good average milkings per cow. The refusals decrease with lower levels of concentrates but are still acceptable.|

• Less than 22 lbs concentrates per 220 lbs milk gives 65.70 lbs production.
• Between 55 lbs and 66 lbs concentrates per 220 lbs milk gives 56.44 lbs production.
• More than 88 lbs concentrates per 220 lbs milk gives 59.53 lbs production.

This means that there are farms feeding 22 lbs concentrates or less per 220 lbs milk and yet producing 18% more milk per robot. This implies that more than just one feeding strategy is possible. Factors of influence are, for example: cow health, grazing, frequency of feed pushing and basic ration. Labor is not taken into account in these figures. 

Figure 1

Evaluate

It is important that the feeding strategy fits the farm and farmer. Important KPIs for evaluating this are, for example:
• Production: milk/fat/protein
• Visit behavior: milkings/refusals/collecting cows
• Health: rumination/milk-to-fat ratio
• Feeding: concentrates/rest feed

High or low energy levels in the robot/Lely Cosmix (out-of-parlor feeder) are possible, but it is important to monitor, evaluate and meet the guidelines. Choose a strategy together with the farmer and the feed advisor that will fit the farm and farmer and can meet his/her expectations. Keep in mind the following reference points:
• The farmer’s goals: production/labor/financial
• Grazing/availability of feed
• Cow health/fertility/average age/body condition scores/production level

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