Combining grazing and robotic milking

Many farmers across the world are successfully combining robotic milking with a grazing system. Here we discuss the essentials of making it work.

Grazing, Milking, Tips & Tricks

Well managed grass leys can offer the most cost-effective feed source for dairy herds, but many farmers believe it is impossible to graze their cows if they want to use a robotic milking system as well. This is not the case; it certainly is possible to have the advantages of grazing while also accessing the benefits of automated milking with the Lely Astronaut, but it does require some know-how and planning.

Your local Lely Center is best-placed to give specific advice on your own farm, but there are a few issues to think about in the meantime if you are considering combining robotic milking with a grazing system.

  1. Free cow traffic – This is central to any automatic milking system and simply means that cows have free choice of when to visit the robot for milking. In a housed system cows are motivated to visit the robot by concentrates or cake delivered by the Astronaut. With a grazing system the motivation is access to fresh grass, so it is important to get this right.
  2. Find your strategy – Lely suggests dividing the farm’s grazing into three blocks (A, B and C) where fresh grass is available every eight hours. An option is for the C block feed allocation to be served in the barn instead. A two block system (A and B) is also an option if ABC is not viable on your farm.
  3. Paddocks and tracks – All paddocks need to be easily accessible by well-maintained cow tracks. Ensure there are many entry and exit points to each paddock, which will encourage good cow flow and provide flexibility throughout the season as grass availability fluctuates.
  4. Lely Grazeway – The Grazeway selection box is an essential tool to implement a successful grazing operation. It is user-friendly and offers a stress free experience for the herd. With a free cow traffic system cows choose if and when they want to go out to pasture or come in to be milked. The Grazeway determines whether she can go out to grass, or whether she needs to be milked first. The cow will then be routed to the appropriate grazing block, according to the time of day, by the Grazeway which uses the same double gates as the Astronaut. If a cow is milked before the Grazeway gate is due to change to another paddock she will be routed back to the same paddock.

Benefits of combining grazing with robotic milking:

  • Make optimal use of grazed grass. When managed well, grazed grass is generally considered to be the best value feed source for cows.
  • The wealth of data collected by the Lely Horizon management platform (used in conjunction with the Grazeway and Astronaut) helps you to make the best decisions about feed and grazing.
  • Unlock all the health and welfare benefits of robotic milking for your herd including less stress, better udder health and the ability for each cow to choose the optimum milking time for her.
  • Reap the rewards for yourself too, such as better work/life balance, more flexible time for other tasks or interests and decreased reliance on staff with the additional business benefits of grazing.

For more information contact your local Lely Center.