The DeLaval Dairy Management Advisory Team is a group of people that are passionate about robotic milking. We work with your dealer to provide the support you need to achieve your production, milk quality and cow comfort goals. DelPro™ Farm Manager is one of the tools in your toolbox that you can use to achieve these goals. Every dairy producer has a production goal, and one way to define success with DeLaval Robots is to set a goal or target of litres milk, kg butterfat per voluntary milking system VMS™ per day.
While the move to robotic milking is an exciting time, it cannot be done without calculating how much milk or milkfat you need to produce in order to cash flow the new or ongoing adventure. One of the most import steps is producing a calculated amount of milk per day. This is simply divided over the number of robots that you have and comes back to production level per cow. From here, the farmer can make some decisions: less cows and more milk/cow, more cows and less milk/cow but more milk per VMS, or work towards some exceptional production levels at both the cow and VMS level.
DelPro can help make those decisions. The program monitors your success and shows opportunities for improvement. Here’s an example:
You have 55 cows per robot and you want to produce 35 kg. Presently you produce 32 kg and 4.0% of butterfat or 1.28 kg per day and 70 kg of quota/day. If you increase to 35 kg and 4% butterfat, you are now producing 1.4 kg and 77 kg. It will be your choice to buy quota, predict quota increases or sell cows for dairy sales. This would allow you to be more aggressive with your reproduction and culling strategy. DelPro allows you to mark a cow “to be culled” early in lactation, which can help inform management decisions until you’re ready to physically cull. The system can identify the most productive cows in your herd and consequently help achieve your goals in the most economical way for your farm.
In order to increase milk production without changing forage/feed management you can:
- Ensure all cows less than 100 days in milk are visiting the robot at least three times.
- Please consult your feed advisor to learn the role of the pellet in increasing visits to the robot.
- Cows calve out and come three times per day quite easily unless they are sick, lame or your robot is over capacity with more than 62 cows per robot.
- Do you have a protocol for fresh heifers/cows? Ensure that in the first week they are coming to the robot a minimum of three times per day. The more time we spend on fresh animals, the better they will perform throughout the lactation. Allow heifers access to feed only or consider a feed station for heifers if your farm can accommodate one.
- Figure 1 is from DelPro and shows the number of visits on the side and DIM on the bottom. Cows are at three visits immediately after calving and heifers take 40 days to reach three visits. Milking permission settings are at 120 DIM, a slight decrease for cows, but heifers remain extremely persistent.
Do you check for ketosis? Herd Navigator provides daily, easy-to-use information that can help monitor ketosis. If you do not have Herd Navigator, consider a system to check cows in the first two weeks. Physically checking cows coming to the robot less than three times or producing less than 100% of expected yield is strongly encouraged.
- Subclinical milk fever can also slow down fresh cows and hold back their production. Discuss with your herd veterinarian what you should do with these “slow” cows that are not hitting their expected yield.
- All farms should have a report to monitor fresh cows or cows in the first 100 days. A variation of Figure 2 is possible on all DeLaval farms. Because fresh and dry cow protocols are so important, please make sure you work closely with your veterinarian and nutritionist.
Ensure that all cows less than 80 days and heifers less than 90 days are producing more than 100% of expected yield. (One way to remember this is the 100/100 rule: when scrolling down any list in DelPro or on the touchscreen, sorted by DIM, the cows in the first 100 days are the most important and on the way up to peak (60 to 80 days in cows, 90 days in heifers)). They should always be more than 100% of expected yield, and as they start down post peak they should be 95% to 98% of expected yield or they are falling too quickly. Cows must be healthy and moving well for these numbers to apply. You can see how the cows are doing very quickly here on the Milking Queue (Figure 3) sorted by DIM.
Check for the two types of ketosis: type 2 in the first two to three weeks after calving and type 1 from 21 days until 60 days. This is found on both conventional and robotic farms. Displaced abomasums can easily follow.
- Mastitis – look at the Cow Monitoring (CowMon – Figure 4). Increased MDI – is conductivity high in one of the quarters? Catch the cow and check with the CMT paddle. Take a sample and treat according to the SOP that your veterinarian has created for you.
- Metritis – check the uterus.
- Lameness – this will slow down any milking animal. Hoof trimming is critical: work with your veterinarian and hoof trimmer, and remember to check your low activity cow list.
- Fever – fresh cows will have increased risk of fevers, lungs, uterus, udder and “other.” Discuss a protocol with your veterinarian: Supportive care and a large pack with reduced competition could replace a round of antibiotics. Proactive management is always strongly encouraged.
- Feed consumption should be at least 80%, and this is best achieved with 3.5 robot visits. Some cows still don’t put their head down the whole time, but can consume .45 kg of pellet feed per minute per day in any traffic situation. However, if there is a pellet quality issue, cows won’t want to come to the VMS 3.5 times/day in the first 100 days.
- See factors 1 and 2.
- Days in milk – from the lactation curve in DelPro (Figure 5), you can see where the cows are on their production curve at 190 days versus 170 days. You will see immediately how much more milk is sitting there right on your farm if you work towards shifting the days in milk.
- This all relates back to healthy fresh cows and having a reproductive program established with your herd veterinarian. Activity is an important tool. (see Figure 2)
- Incompletes – when the number of visits on the farm goes up, the number of incomplete milkings must go down. Therefore, if the number of visits goes down and incompletes go up, address the top reasons for increased incompletes listed below.
- Always, always check the camera – sit and watch five cows and see how and the arm attaches. This will give 75% of the answer. Keep the camera clean all the times.
- Synge the udders – is there any hair hanging down confusing the camera?
- Same cows – if so, re-teach, increase milking interval if it requires more milk. This will also increase the distance between the back two teats.
- Is there increased conductivity in a quarter, indicative of an infection or an issue with attachment with a specific quarter or a specific VMS?
- Udder confirmation or cow behaviour – some cows are not made for robotic milking, in which case the recommendation is to consider selling those animals.
As milking visits go up, incompletes need to be kept low, and harvesting flow should be greater than 2.0 kg in order to increase the milk produced per VMS per day (Figure 6).
DelPro helps you make informed management decisions to move towards your production goals. It produces information based on the quality of data that is inputted. The more you use the system, the better the system will perform for you. By using even some of the basics presented here, you can catch those cows that need your help and quickly impact your average daily production by attending to the needs of these cows. Please let your dealer know what you are looking for. The Dairy Management Advisory Team is here to support your dealer and help you achieve your goals.