Dairy cows

Milking robots offer similar performance on pasture systems

Alvaro Garcia

Finding, hiring, and retaining labor has in recent years become a problem for dairy farms across the world. Automated milking systems (AMS) are increasingly becoming popular since they solve this problem while increasing productivity, milking efficiency, and reducing the handling required in lactating dairy cows.

While these have been employed in confinement production systems with success its adoption in grazing systems still lags. The adoption in the traditional confinement systems has increased since its first introduction in the Netherlands in the early 90’s to an estimated 50,000 units on 25,000 farms in 2019.

It is even estimated that in Europe nearly half of dairy start-ups do so with AMS with some countries having an adoption rate of nearly 23%.

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Milking cows

Removing S. aureus from teat cup liners using automatic cluster flushing

Alvaro Garcia

Mastitis is an inflammation of the udder caused by microorganisms that enter the gland through the teat canal. Once inside the gland, these organisms find ideal conditions in which to multiply and, in turn damage the lining of the milk ducts, cistern, and alveoli. Contagious bacteria are spread from a cow with an infected udder to a healthy cow.

Transfer of pathogenic bacteria between cows usually occurs at milking time. Milker hands, towels, or the milking machine can all act as reservoirs for contagious bacteria. The major contagious pathogens are Streptococcus agalactiae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Mycoplasma spp.

The most important approach to minimize the transmission is to address potential sources of contagion at milking time. Cleaning the cluster between milkings has been used in commercial farms for quite some time. However, submerging the cluster in hot water (85°C) has been found not very effective in reducing the number of new intramammary infections.

Similarly, flushing has not achieved the complete eradication of new infections. Flushing with just cold water is frequently used in commercial farms since it is less costly, does not damage the equipment that much, and reduces the risk of residues in milk. Adding disinfectants to the water has also been explored as an alternative solution.

Using an iodine solution has been demonstrated to reduce intramammary infections by Corynebacterium bovis and coagulase-positive staphylococci. Given these results it seems that teat cleanliness, teat dipping, and an adequate milking routine are more effective in reducing the spread of infections than the attempts at washing or disinfecting the unit.

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One versus two milkings in low-input dairy production systems

Joaquín Ventura García & Fernando Diaz

After nutrition, labor is the second item in the production costs of a dairy operation. Therefore, it is very important to optimize the work force of a dairy farm in order to improve profitability. Furthermore, milking consumes most of the time in the workers schedule. For this reason, some dairies follow a once-a-day milking strategy in order to improve their employees working conditions, reduce labor cost, expand the pool of available labor or better use their labor resource.

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Automatic milking system performance: free vs. forced traffic flow

Fernando Diaz

In robotic dairies, cows can move through the pen freely or forced. With free cow traffic, cows decide when to enter the robot whereas with forced cow traffic, the producer set one-way traffic toward the robot by one-way gates or a sorting system in which cows are forced to the milking, feeding, and resting areas.

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Tactile stimulation is the most critical factor associated with delayed milk ejection

Tactile stimulation is the most critical factor associated with delayed milk ejection

Fernando Díaz

Milk ejection occurs when the myoepithelial cells that surround the mammary alveoli contract and milk is transported through the milk ducts into the cisternal compartment. However, when oxytocin is not available to the myoepithelial cells, milk flow is disturbed, resulting in delayed milk ejection (DME) or bimodality.

A recent study from Michigan State University evaluated herd-level variables associated with DME. The researchers visited 64 Michigan dairy herds and conducted a milk quality evaluation focused on five pillars: milking behaviors and proficiency, milking systems, cow environment, monitoring and therapy of infected cows, and management.

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