Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Technology as Empowering, Even Dairy Cows

In some ways automated milking systems/robot milkers are the epitome of industrialized agriculture. It's easy to create an over-simplified picture in your mind of what's involved.   I won't venture to compare these systems with our practices with 12 cows in a stanchion system, but much of this extension article surprised me.  Some excerpts:
  • "cow’s attendance to the milking station is not only dependent on the PMR and pellets [feed] offered in the RMS [robotic milking system], but also on feeding management, cow comfort, cow health, and social interactions among cows."
  • "If forage moisture changes and rations are not adjusted promptly, visits may drop. The drop in visits will result in a decrease in milk production and an increase in the number of fetch cows. The increase in fetch cows may disrupt other cow behaviors, resulting in even bigger decreases in visits and milk production, leading to a downward spiral that creates much frustration for the producer. It is crucial to have consistent feeding in order to maintain high production and minimize the number of fetch cows[i.e. cows someone has to fetch and herd into the RMS]"
  • "Cows like consistency. This is even more important in a RMS herd."
The advice in this Progressive Dairy article by a "senior farm management support adviser." advoses letting cows do their thing.  (The "subtext" is the difficulty of changing one's behavior when new technology comes into the job site.)

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