The objective of this study was to investigate milk yield and frequency of visits to the milking station of primiparous versus multiparous cows at different stages of lactation on farms with automatic milking systems (AMS) in the Upper Midwest United States. Forty farms were included in the study, and daily AMS software data were collected for 18 mo. For the investigation of milk yield and milking visits, stage of lactation was categorized into 14 periods, 7 d in length for the first 28 d in milk (DIM) and 30 d in length thereafter until 328 DIM. Cow traffic flow to the AMS (free or guided) was included in the model. For the evaluation of failures and refusals, stage of lactation was categorized into 6 periods, 7 d in length each for the first 28 DIM, and 2 periods of 150 d in length each thereafter until 328 DIM. Failures are milking station visits where a cow fails to be milked due to lack of machine attachment although it is time for the cow to be milked. Refusals are milking station visits before adequate time has passed since previous milking, thus the cow leaves the milking station without being milked. Data from lactation days beyond 328 DIM were excluded from the study. Primiparous cows in free-flow systems produced less milk than multiparous cows until the 11th stage of lactation and produced more milk from the 12th stage until the end of the study period. Primiparous cows in guided-flow systems produced less milk than multiparous cows all 14 stages of lactation, but were approaching the milk yield of multiparous cows at the end of the study period. This was a biologically normal lactation curve for primiparous cows. However, estimated peak ratio (primiparous vs. multiparous cows' peak milk yield) was lower than industry standards. Both traffic flow systems had fewer milking visits for primiparous cows compared with multiparous cows in early lactation. This lower milking frequency persisted until the 11th stage of lactation in free-flow systems. In guided-flow systems, primiparous cows were milked less frequently until the 5th stage of lactation, had similar milking frequency in the 6th stage of lactation, and were milked more frequently thereafter. Failures were greater for primiparous cows during all stages of lactation. However, the greatest differences were detected in the early stages of lactation. Primiparous cows had 0.067 more failures/cow per day on average than multiparous cows during wk 1 of lactation. For the remaining lactation stages, differences in failures ranged from 0.003 to 0.039. Refusals were less frequent (0.4 to 0.6/d) for primiparous cows during the first 2 wk of lactation, similar for wk 3 of lactation, and more frequent for the remaining lactation stages (0.10 to 0.14/d). Failures and refusals were only evaluated in free-flow systems. These findings appear to indicate a potential lagging performance for primiparous cows in early lactation as compared with multiparous cows. Additional investigation into improving the adaptation of primiparous cows to AMS in early lactation may be warranted.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank all the dairy producers who participated in the study. We also thank Luis Espejo (St. Augustine, FL) for help with statistical analysis. In addition, we thank Lely (Lely Industries NV, Maassluis, the Netherlands) and DeLaval (DeLaval International AB, Tumba, Sweden) for technical help with AMS software data collection and Kelly Froehlich and Michael Schmitt (both from the University of Minnesota) for help with AMS data entry. Justin Siewert was partially supported by a Department of Animal Science Fellowship (University of Minnesota, St. Paul) and the John Brandt Memorial Fund Scholarship (Land O'Lakes Inc., St. Paul). This project was partially supported by Hatch Funds from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
© 2019 American Dairy Science Association
- automatic milking system
- milk yield
- milking frequency