Many of the health benefits associated with automated milking can be attributed to the wealth of data collected by the Astronaut. In conjunction with Horizon; farm management application it will flag up any issues earlier than can be detected by humans meaning that any problems can be dealt with much sooner. However, the effect a free cow traffic system can have on cow health – and particularly hoof health – also shouldn’t be underestimated.
Pushing cows into the parlour each time they are milked in a traditional set up can have a detrimental impact on foot health, believes Olivia Edgerton, Farm Management Support for Lely Atlantic. Speaking at the Lely’s Farmer Panel on Health and Welfare recently she asked participating farmers what differences they had seen since they’d made the switch to automation and the associated changes to a free cow traffic system.
County Limerick farmer Jerome O’Connor said his 120 cows were now able to take their time between field and robot. “If it takes the cow half an hour to go from the field to the robot then so be it. She will get there without doing harm to herself. Lameness isn’t an issue now,” he added.
Michael Barrett said he had also seen a huge improvement in hoof health since installing robots on his farm in Co. Limerick in 2020. “Before, we pushed 10 to 15 cows through the crush every year to be pared, but in the first year [with robots] we had one cow. I couldn’t believe the difference and it was down to one thing – they were walking at their own pace.”
Rikki Bayer from Cork added that if there are occasional lameness in her herd cases they recover more quickly. “Once treated with bandages or shoes they can walk away at their own pace and have the time to recover – there’s no rushing them.”
The free cow traffic system advocated by Lely involves looking holistically at a farm’s infrastructure to create a set up where a cow has genuine autonomy over her time. Lely Astronaut and Grazeway work together to allow cows access to grazing paddocks and to be milked. Add to that the Vector mixing and feeding robots and/or the Juno automatic feed pusher to ensure there is fresh ration available at the feed fence at all times meaning less jostling or leaning at the feed fence because fresh feed is consistently available.
When added to the Astronaut system the Lely Meteor’s two-phase approach adds a further line of defence against foot problems.
Phase 1 is corrective treatment where every hoof of every cow is thoroughly checked and treated if there are any issues with a strict zero tolerance policy. The Lely Meteor starter kit provides the farm with the necessary tools to carry out these checks and treatments effectively.
The focus then shifts to preventative treatment in Phase 2 when the Meteor sprayers help maintain hoof health and prevent any future problems. The Lely Meteor automatic sprayer is installed in the Lely Astronaut, delivering treatment at every milking, significantly reducing the risk of hoof diseases. There are two key products delivered by the Meteor – a wash spray, used before milking, and a care spray, applied after milking. Both are free from aggressive products and gentle on the skin. Dry cows, youngstock or other animals not visiting the robot can be treated with the Meteor manual sprayer instead.
For more information on Lely Meteor click here
Planning for success with large herds
When planning to automate a large dairy unit it’s important to think beyond milking, says Ben Nottage, Lely Atlantic’s DairyXL Account Manager.