My Grazing Week: Autumn 11 - Barn systems and the AMS


Andrew Walsh is back with My Grazing Week and this week he's talking about your housing and AMS needs.

My Grazing Week: Autumn 11 - Barn systems and the AMS

  • ADDED
  • 2 years ago

Andrew Walsh is back with My Grazing Week and this week he's talking about your housing and AMS needs.

Robotic system: DeLaval VMS™ robotic grass based milking

Recap last week:

MS/cow/day: 1.84kg

Grass GR: 60Kg

Daily Routine

(19th - 25th October)

Milk KPI’s

Fat

5.08%

Protein

3.98%

Yield

18.5kg

MS/cow/day

1.67/cow

SCC (‘000)

56

TBC (‘000)

5

Concentrates

Rotation length

3.7kg

40 days

Life on the farm

This week saw a large amount of rainfall across the country. We were lucky that we only had around 15mm, whereas some counties had over 40mm!

Our cows remain out full time with a grass and concentrate only diet at the moment. The grass covers that the cows are grazing are quite high (>1700 kg Dm/ha). However, despite the wet conditions, graze out of the paddocks has been excellent.

There was a noticeable drop in yield since the storm on the weekend, but they have recovered by about 0.5 kg/day. The fat and protein levels remain high so the energy intake from the grass and concentrates is still meeting the energy demand.

Barn systems

Although this moves slightly away from the grazing aspect, it is very relevant at this time of year, as many herds around the country are housed or part time housed.

While there are many different types of barn systems associated with AMS, the main fundamentals are the same no matter what system is adapted.

The cow must be given the four freedoms from:

  • Hunger and thirst
  • Physical and thermal discomfort
  • Pain and disease
  • Fear

The general consensus is that free flow systems are the only answer to allowing the cow these freedoms. But this is not true, a guided system set up correctly will allow these freedoms to be achieved for the cow.

The common questions asked are, what is the difference between free flow and guided traffic, and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Free flow

As the name suggests, the cow is essentially free to do whatever she desires, be it feeding, resting or milking!

This is the main attraction for this type of system, the fact that the cow is let to make all of her own decisions.

There is a lower cost associated with this type of barn system as no pre-selection gates (drafting gates) are required, except maybe a separation gate for sick cows or cows for AI (required for any system).

While many perceive the cow having all her own freedom as a huge plus, it can actually be seen as a negative.

While the majority of cows will adapt to this system with no hassle, around 10% or greater of the herd will avoid the milking robots completely. These cows require someone to manually drive them to the robots.

This adds significantly to the work load, which is again another drawback. Whilst out on a trip to Sweden a couple of years ago I saw a free flow barn and a contrast ‘feed first’ barn. The yields and milkings per day were similar and the positioning of the robots are very similar. The only difference that I could see was that the farmer with the free flow barn had someone employed full time to stay in the shed chasing ‘fetch cows’ to the robots. The feed first barn was just the farmer managing the operation!

Mastitis cases can potentially increase on a free flow system (depending on layout of barn and robots). The reason for this is that the cow can go and lie down in the cubicles straight after milking if she desires. Not ideal as the teat ends remain open for up to 30 minutes post milking, leaving an entry point for bacteria.

Feed first

This type of barn system does still give the cow all the freedom of feed and rest, but the difference between this and the free flow system is that cows must pass a pre-selection gate.

When a cow enters the feed area from the cubicles, the only way she can get out is through a pre-selection gate.

If the cow is due to milk then she is sent to the robot wait area for, if she is not due then she is sent to the cubicles for rest.

The cow can access the feed and water area whenever she wants. She can access the rest area also when she wants, provided that she does not have milking permission at the time of passing the gate.

The fetching rates on these guided traffic systems can range from 0%-5%. The 5% are generally lame cows, but they cause the same issue no matter what system, free flow, guided or grazing!

When nearing or at capacity, this system can be a huge advantage whereby only cows due to milk enter the robot, and time is not taken up by not cows without milking permission.

An obvious drawback can be the potential additional cost associated with the pre-selection gate, and extra gate infrastructure (divide milked cows from non-milked cows.

A pre-selection gate can add ±€7000 to the total price of the system. But when compared to the farmer in Sweden hiring staff instead of this gate, it is quite a cheap alternative!

Summary

Both free flow and feed first work well with milking robots in barn systems.

Whilst the free flow offers more freedom to the cow, the guided system ensures that all cows visit the milking station at reasonable intervals.

As long as the layout of the barn is correct, the cows will get used to it and either system will work. It is down to the preference of the farmer when purchasing the product.

I am biased towards the feed first system, as I have seen this working so well on so many farms!

I have seen free flow systems working very well also, there is no denying that, but I have also seen farmers frustrated with free flow, and even converting to feed first after the first season!

Similar Articles

Comments


Most popular

The Marts Forecast
The Marts Forecast
Click to View Weekly Mart Schedules
SELECT LIVESTOCK

Cattle Marts Scheduled Nationwide

Monday

  • Birr
  • Carrigallen
  • Granard
  • Elphin
  • Inishowen
  • Manorhamilton
  • Stranolar
  • Tuam

Tuesday

  • Ballina
  • Ballyjamesduff
  • Drumshambo
  • Ennis
  • Enniscorthy
  • Fermoy
  • Nenagh

Wednesday

  • Athenry
  • Ballinrobe
  • Elphin
  • Granard
  • Kilrush
  • Nenagh

Thursday

  • Ballymote
  • Birr
  • Castlerea
  • Drumshambo
  • Ennis
  • Kilkenny
  • Raphoe

Friday

  • Donegal
  • Gort
  • Kilfenora
  • Roscommon
  • Roscrea
  • Tullow

Saturday

  • Balla
  • Carnew
  • Carrigallen
  • Dowra
  • Loughrea
  • Maam Cross
  • Mohill
  • New Ross
  • Scariff
  • Tullow

Sheep Marts Scheduled Nationwide

Monday

  • Ballyjamesduff
  • Carrigallen
  • Elphin
  • Fermoy
  • Kilkenny
  • Raphoe

Tuesday

  • Athenry
  • Ballina
  • Donegal
  • Ennis
  • Inishowen
  • Tuam
  • Tullow

Wednesday

  • Ballinrobe
  • Enniscorthy
  • Gort
  • Manorhamilton
  • Roscommon
  • Roscrea
  • Stranorlar

Thursday

  • Ballymote
  • Carnew
  • Loughrea

Friday

  • Dowra

Saturday

  • New Ross
  • Maam Cross

Dairy Marts Scheduled Nationwide

Monday

  • Kilkenny

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Enniscorthy (2nd Wednesday Of Month)

Thursday

Friday

  • Fermoy

Saturday

Calf Marts Scheduled Nationwide

Monday

Tuesday

  • Kilkenny

Wednesday

  • Enniscorthy

Thursday

Friday

Saturday