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Demands and opportunities for operational management support

It is generally recognised by now that with automatic milking operational farm management is considerably changed compared to conventional machine milking, and is a key issue to fulfil requirements in practise. An overall picture of changes in management when milking with an automatic milking system however is not available. Each manufacturer has different solutions for management support and performance of automatic tasks, and users can adapt various parameter settings to their own preferences.

This report describes differences between conventional and automatic milking with respect to operational farm management. From these differences a list of demands for operational management with automatic milking systems is generated and compared with the possibilities of currently available systems. Opportunities and shortcomings are indicated and discussed.

A clear difference with conventional milking is that milking intervals have to be controlled for individual cows. Feeding strategy is a key element in this, especially when grazing is applied. Usually cows with too long intervals are fetched. With regard to health, in general much more indirect information is available, especially detection of mastitis partly depends on abnormalities detected with sensors. However, visual inspection of the animals remains an important method to control health. Because milkings are unattended, regularly abnormalities have to be checked. Because of the limited reliability of the alarms, and the fact that these are not yet integrated, this requires specific skills from the farmer. The automatic milking unit has to be maintained and its cleaning and functioning must be controlled more or less constantly. The cooling system has to be suited to automatic milking.

In order to be able to comply with legislation some of the currently existing regulation must be adapted, avoiding double standards. Farmers must have affinity with automation. They have to work with secure schedules, for instance first enter treatment data in the computer and then treat sic cows and respond as should on alarms for system and animals. Udders and teats must be kept clean. Farmers in general are satisfied with the current possibilities of AM systems and do not have a clear view which further improvements are possible. Despite this, not all of the demands for automatic milking are yet fulfilled by the current systems but this is also due to insufficient legislation. Especially automatic separation of abnormal milk and secured teat cleaning should be realised. Furthermore monitoring of the equipment can be improved. With these improvements automatic milking potentially has advantages with respect to milk quality and food safety compared to conventional milking.

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Kees DE KONING, (Manager Cluster Product Quality and Control)
Tél.: +31-32-0293432
Fax: +31-32-0241584
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