Dairy cow behaviour and automatic milking.
Voluntary automatic milking is a system whereby dairy cows can be milked as the
cow desires without routine human intervention.
Motivation to be milked was studied in a Y -maze and an automatic milking
system (AMS). In both motivation to be milked was variable. In the Y -maze some
early lactation cows chose to be milked every 31/ 2 hours five times per day, but there
was much individual variation. Late lactation cows did not choose to be milked less
often than the early lactation cows. When given the choice to be milked or fed
concentrate in the Y -maze, early lactation cows always chose to eat. In the AMS
mean attendance increased from 1.1 visits/ cow / day when they were not fed
concentrate to 2.8 visits/cow/day when they were fed concentrate.
The effects of feeding in the AMS on attendance were studied. Feeding
concentrate in the parlour had no effect on attendance or the number of milkings. The
AMS exit area feed type (where the cows had to visit the AMS to reach the food;
either forage or concentrate) however, had a significant effect on attendance (forage:
6.0 visits/cow/day, concentrate: 4.1 visits/cow/day, s.e.d=0.25) but only a small
effect on the frequency of milkings (forage: 2.6 milkings/cow/day, concentrate: 2.4
milkings/cow/day, s.e.d=0.06). Feeding forage in the exit area, as opposed to freely
available in the bedded area, significantly reduced the total forage feeding time (209
vs 289 minutes/cow/day, s.e.d=33.6), and the number of bouts (4.9 vs 7.9
Feeding cows in the parlour increased the level of shuffling during the
automatic teat cup attachment process (6.7 vs. 3.4 shuffles/cow/milking, s.e.d 2.07).
There were no other behavioural effects or any effects on their milking
Future automatic milking systems could feed concentrate in the exit area as the
lure to attract cows into the system. There is no requirement to feed cows while they
are being milked.