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Automatic milking research for grass based systems

Date: 14th June 2011

The Story

A new grassland research project, which is being carried out by the Moorepark Animal and Grassland Innovation Centre in Ireland and supported by Fullwood Limited, has been launched to investigate the most cost effective and efficient method of integrating automated milking systems into pasture-based dairy set-ups.
 
Fullwood has supplied the Irish Government owned research facility at Fermoy in County Cork with the latest version of its flagship Merlin 225 robotic milking machine which was commissioned at the Teagasc facility in February 2011 and is currently being used to milk a group of 62 cows.
 
“The small test herd comprises of three breeds of cows: Norwegian Reds, Jersey cross-breeds and Holstein Friesians,” outlines Dr Padraig French, head of livestock systems at Moorepark.
 
The cows were previously part of a herd that was milked through a traditional herringbone parlour.  “They have adapted to the Merlin unit quickly and with very little trouble,” Dr French explains.  “The majority of the cows were happily entering and exiting the milking unit within 36-48 hours of the Merlin being brought on line.  We are adding new cows to the herd on a regular basis with the aim of reaching a total of 75 cows going through the robot.”
 
The primary aim of the three-year study is to determine how AMS technologies can be integrated into grazing based dairy systems, and how to manage grassland to provide the most appropriate source of forage.
 
“The AMS herd is at pasture for 10 months of the year – from calving to drying off,” Dr French continues.  “We are interested in finding the most effective way of setting-up and managing our pastures to incentivise individual cows to enter the unit in order to maximise the number of milkings per cow per day.”
 
The herd is currently grazing three paddocks to which access is controlled by a series of automatic segregation gates.  “The cows can gain access to each of the three paddocks throughout any 24 hour period.  This ensures that they are able to graze on fresh grass with each paddock providing a third of each cow’s daily grass intake.
 
“The small herd size means that the distance to each paddock can be kept to a minimum which in turn allows the herd to be supported on a smaller land bank.  It is hoped that by the end of the three-year study we will be able to provide some really useful advice to dairy farmers throughout Ireland and further afield who want to adopt AMS but who don’t want to move away from a grass based system.”
 
Commenting on the project, David O’Hare, chief executive of Fullwood Limited said, “Fullwood is delighted to be involved in the project at Teagasc Moorepark.  The advantages to farmers and cows that automatic milking systems offer are well established.  This project will give farmers wishing to incorporate AMS into a grazing based system the necessary advice so that they can plan the development and layout of their farm’s infrastructure accordingly.
 
“The findings of the research will have huge benefits for farmers no matter where they farm and we look forward to working closely with the team of researchers at Moorepark to transfer the knowledge that the study uncovers to the wider dairy farming community.”
 
For more information about the work carried out at Teagasc Moorepark visit www.agresearch.teagasc.ie/moorepark

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