Manual vs. automated. Automated milk feeding systems grow bigger heifers but cost more


Fernando Diaz

Automated milk feeding systems are becoming more popular on North American dairy farms. Canadian researchers (Medrano-Galarza et al., 2017) compared feeding management practices between dairy farms using manual (buckets or bottles) and automated milk feeding systems. The study included 670 Canadian dairies (16% automated and 84% manual) that ranged in size from 17 to 2,800 cows (average: 90 cows). The results, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, showed:

  • Milk replacer was the main type of milk used among automated farms (89%), whereas only 40% of farms using manual feeding fed milk replacer.
  • The volume of milk fed during their first four weeks of life was greater in farms with automated feeders (median: 520 lb. versus 410 lb.).
  • There were no differences between systems in the proportion of farms allowing calves to access starter grain (97%), hay (67%), total-mixed-rations (TMR; 8%) or water (91%).
  • However, the proportion of farms allowing ad libitum access to starter, hay and water was higher among automated farms (86%, 93% and 99%) compared with manual systems (70%, 66% and 81%).

Continue reading this article published in Dairy Herd Management.