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Associations of milk production and quality with management and housing of robotic milking herds.

R. D. Matson



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Associations of milk production and quality with management and housing of robotic milking herds.
R. D. Matson*1, M. T. M. King1, T. F. Duffield2, D. E. Santschi3, K. Orsel4, E. A. Pajor4, G. B. Penner5, T. Mutsvangwa5, T. J. DeVries1. 1Department of Animal Biosciences Guelph, ON, Canada, 2Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph Guelph, ON, Canada, 3Lactanet Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, Canada, 4Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary Calgary, AB, Canada, 5Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, SK, Canada.

The objective of this study was to identify housing and management factors associated with milk production and quality in robotic milking herds. We visited 197 Canadian robot farms (Western Canada: n = 50, Ontario: n = 77, Quebec: n = 59, Atlantic Canada: n = 11) from April to September 2019 and collected details of barn design and herd management practices. Milk recording data for the 6 mo before farm visits were collected. Farms averaged 111 � 101 lactating cows, 2.4 � 1.9 robot units/farm, 47.3 � 9.1 cows/robot, 36.6 � 4.9 kg/d of milk, and a herd average SCC of 200,882 � 94,276 cells/mL. Univariable models were used to screen independent variables (as fixed effects) in mixed-effect linear regression models and variables with P < 0.25 were offered to multivariable models, with herd treated as a random effect. A greater number of cows per robot was associated with lesser milk yield; every 10 additional cows was associated with 0.76 kg/d lesser production per cow (P = 0.02).The predominant bedding type used was wood products (n = 64; with sand = 52; straw = 41; and other = 28); herds with sand bedding had +1.5 kg/cow/d greater milk production (P = 0.02) compared with herds that used wood products. Herds that pushed-up feed > 24 (n = 33) and 12—24 x/d (n = 51) had greater (P < 0.01) average production of +2.6 and +1.8 kg/cow/d, respectively, compared with herds that pushed up 1—5 x/d (n = 31). Milk production was associated with region (P < 0.01), with Western Canadian farms producing +2.1 and +2.8 kg/cow/d more when compared with Ontario and Quebec farms, respectively. SCC was associated with bedding type; use of sand bedding was associated with a lesser herd average SCC (125,951 cells/mL) when compared with wood products (206,443 cells/mL; P = 0.005), straw (269,030 cells/mL; P < 0.001), and other bedding types (212,227 cells/mL; P = 0.02). The results of this study demonstrate that greater milk production and milk quality are being achieved on robotic milking herds by increasing feed push-up frequency, reducing the stocking density of cows per robot, and using sand to bed their freestalls.

Keywords: automated milking systems, management, production.