My Grazing Week: Winter 5 - Breeding the robot friendly cow


My Grazing week is back and this week Andrew is looking at important traits of every breeding strategy.

My Grazing Week: Winter 5 - Breeding the robot friendly cow

  • ADDED
  • 7 days ago

My Grazing week is back and this week Andrew is looking at important traits of every breeding strategy.

Robotic system: DeLaval VMS™ robotic grass-based milking

Recap last week:

MS/cow/day: 1.45kg

Reduced antibiotics

Which cows need attention?

(29thNovembe- 06th December)

Milk KPI’s

Fat

4.74%

Protein

3.7%

Yield

17kg

MS/cow/day

1.43 kg/cow

SCC (‘000)

86

TBC (‘000)

4

Concentrates

% Closed

4.5kg

100%

Life on the farm

More cows were dried off this week, while we also had three cows calve down at the same time! 49 cows are currently being milked.

All of our dry cows were vaccinated with rotavec corona to help prevent rotavirus in the calves.

The weather has been quite warm and dry over the last few days. We took advantage of this to get some of our land ploughed and ready for sowing spring cereal crops next March.

The cows are consuming 78 DMD silage with about 0.5kg soya, and 1kg of barley straw in a PMR diet mix. On average, they are eating 18 kg of dry matter per day.

Breeding the robot friendly cow

The majority of cows are compatible with robotic milking systems, in terms of teat placement. But while these cows may be milked by the robot, some cows will take longer to milk or less likely to travel to the robot, due to a number of reasons. The areas to look at when selecting bulls for robots are:

SCC

By far the most important trait, and the first trait that should be looked at when selecting a bull. It is senseless breeding a cow with all of the required traits only for her to have a terrible cell count and costing money due to having mastitis.

Do not select a bull with an index of great than 3 for SCC.

Feet and legs

This is vital, especially on a grazing system whereby the cows are walking quite a bit during the day and night. A cow with poor feet and leg conformation will not travel so well to the robot. Good heel depth will help to prevent infections, in turn preventing lame cows.

Teat placement

While I mentioned most cows being compatible, the robots can struggle with finding the teats of some of the cows, compared with other cows. This causes inefficiencies if you are wanting to reach maximum capacity.

When selecting a sire for a cow with close or wide teats, we want to select a sire with an index 0 for teat placement. Some farmers might be inclined to put a sire with index +1 or +2 teat placements on a cow with close teats. What this can do is make that off spring have very wide teats, and her off spring have even wider teat placement! An index 0 means that the off spring will be as close to central teat position as possible.

Teat Length

Cows with teats that are longer than shorter often work better with milking robots. When the robot goes to put on a cup onto a very short teat, it can find it hard to keep the cup on, as it is harder to keep a tight seal around the teat.

Long teats can be prone to getting walked on or cut, leading to increased cases of mastitis, so we should also try to avoid breeding off spring with this trait.

Ideally, we want to breed for teats that are not too short, and not too long. So as with teat placement, we should breed using sires with teat length values as close to an index 0 as possible.

Milking speed

There is only a certain number of cows that one robot will milk during the day. The slower the cows are at milking the less cows we can carry, the faster the cows are the more we can carry.

Higher yielding cows tend to be faster milking cows due to a higher flow rate. It is possible to achieve 40 kg from one cow in 20 minutes in the day, and only 20kg from another cow in the same amount of time. The 40kg cow just has a higher flow rate than the 20kg cow.

Certain bulls will have quicker milking time traits. But there is an optimum, as the KPI project discovered (discussed in winter 2). If a cow has a very fast milking speed, she is more prone to mastitis and a higher SCC.

Another point is, if the cow is extremely quick to milk and extremely high yielding, it is hard to get enough feed into that cow in the robot, as she is not in it long enough, even milking three times a day.

Summary

The majority of cows will be compatible with a robotic milking system, it is just about how efficient that cow will be on the system. We can make our herd more efficient, and carry more cows per robot by doing so, producing more KG/robot/year, creating more of a profit per robot.

The most important trait with any breeding strategy is SCC and feet and legs. These should be looked at first before considering any other traits on any sire.

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