Barn hygiene and robotic milking

On dairy farms, udder health and claw health are closely related to barn hygiene. Clean and dry bedding reduces the risk of mastitis when the cow is resting and prevents the teats and udder to become dirty. Clean passages keep cows from bringing manure into the cubicles, allow the claws to dry and hence reduce the sensitivity for infectious claw disorders, and keep cows from slipping when walking.

Management, Cow health

Brush cleaning

With robotic milking, barn hygiene demands thorough attention constantly. In a regular milking parlor, very dirty teats and udders may be cleaned differently. However, in an automated milking system (AMS) the teat cleaning process is the same for every cow and milking. As such, teats and udders have to be clean when the cow enters the stall for milking. The precise arm movements of the Lely brush system guarantee approximately 40% more effective cleaning and stimulation of the cow’s udder compared to conventional methods. Brush cleaning enables quick and very effective tactile stimulation, which is important for optimal oxytocin release.

Relationship between hygiene and udder health

Recent Dutch research from the universities of Utrecht and Wageningen has looked at the relationship between hygiene and udder health on farms with an AMS. This study clearly shows that both bulk tank somatic cell count as well as the % of new cows with increased somatic cell count are higher when the cows are dirtier (teats, udder, thighs). 

In addition to actual barn hygiene, daily routines on the robot (cleaning of laser, teat cups and 3x daily replacing the milk filter) and cow hygiene (shaving tails, singing udders) help in maintaining an optimally working milking robot, prevent failures (and consequent problems with udder health) and achieve a good milking hygiene. Correct spraying of the teats after milking helps in achieving a lower % of new cows with increased somatic cell count. Regular checking of spraying is therefore advised.

Four ways to keep the udder clean:

1. Dry and clean cubicles; use appropriate bedding material or sand. Cubicles need to have the right size and shape for comfortable lying positions and clean udders. Clean the cubicles at least twice a day to remove manure/urine/milk/wet patches.
2. Dry and clean floors; scrape manure frequently (Lely Discovery) and apply ventilation.
3. Prevent excessive hair on tail and udder; shave or singe the hair on the udder and shave the tail preferably every three months in the summer and every eight weeks in the winter.
4. Make optimal use of the brush and disinfection possibilities of the Astronaut milking robot. Brushes need to be changed regularly.

To evaluate barn hygiene, scoring cow cleanliness is the most reliable. To evaluate the udder hygiene you can use the udder hygiene score card. Please click here for the download. The goal is to have less than 10% dirty udders.

Claw health

In addition, good claw health is crucial for successful robotic milking since the Lely system relies on free cow traffic and the willingness of the cow to visit the robot by herself. Claw diseases such as foot rot and Mortellaro’s disease will cause lameness and a reduction in the visit frequency to the milking robot. Lameness also causes irregularities in visit behavior which in turn can increase the likelihood of mastitis. Infectious claw diseases thrive in a humid, dirty environment. As such, a good ventilation of the barn and frequent scraping of the floor with an automated scraper like the Lely Discovery keep the alleys clean and dry. Regular foot bathing is also recommended (Lely Walkway). Claw health and robot visit behavior will benefit from healthy and clean cows.

Other Farming Insights

T4C 3.11 update

T4C & InHerd

T4C 3.11 update

As of June 2019, the roll out of T4C update 3.11 will start. This update contains new KPI’s of cow performance and rumination of lactating cows, new options in the routing settings, new Vector settings, new remark fields, an attention ‘suspect for abortion’ and new features for the grazing reporting. Since the roll out will start soon, it is good to know what the update entails. KPI for energy-corrected milk or milk solids To get a better insight into your cows’ performance, there is now a KPI available that shows milk yields, but with a correction for fat and protein content. There is a choice between three formulas, which are FPCM (fat- and protein-corrected milk), ECM (energy-corrected milk) or milk solids (sum of kg dry matter of fat and protein). These calculations are available as a KPI on the dashboard, but also on an individual-cow basis in the report generator. However, they are not enabled by default. On the ‘Global farm set-up’ page, you can choose which formula you would like to use. Routing: pause a scheduled routing On the ‘Daily entry’ page, a new action has been added called ‘Scheduled routing’. On this page, you see all the cows that currently have an active routing task based on a scheduled routing task. This gives you more insight into which cows are routed or ‘to be routed’ and why they are routed. In addition, you can pause these tasks. This could be useful, for example, when you want to skip hoof trimming for a day due to harvesting. Routing: only route after milking When treating a cow, it is often desirable to have a cow in the separation area with an empty udder. With Lely T4C 3.11 it is now possible to enable a setting that makes sure that routing tasks are only active when a cow is allowed to be milked. This could also prevent cows with full udders being in the separation area for longer periods. This functionality is also available for scheduled routing tasks. Lely Vector: enter ration in dry matter Lely Vector rations can also be entered in kg dry matter. This would be very useful when customers receive their ration in dry matter per cow from their feed advisors. Reproduction remarks In this update, the usage of the reproduction remarks is improved. There are now also remark fields available for the pregnancy check and calving actions. Rumination KPI for lactating cows only Usually the rumination activity KPI is used to analyse the rumination of the part of the herd that is currently in lactation. However, since this KPI also includes dry cows and young stock, there is now also a KPI that shows only the average for the cows that are in lactation.   ‘Suspected miscarriage’ attention If a pregnant animal has shown serious heat signs since the last positive pregnancy test, she is shown on report 34 – Reproduction check with the remark ‘Suspected miscarriage’. Grazing report This new report shows the grazing per cow. The time is calculated from the moment she is routed to a grazing destination until she is recognised again by another device. Related to this same data, there is now also a grazing report for all the lactating cows.