The impact of a shaded pre-milking yard on a pasture-based automatic milking system
Wildridge, A.M.; Garcia, S.C.; Thomson, P.C.; Jongman, E.C.; Clark, C.E. F.; Kerrisk, K.L.
Animal Production Science 57(7): 1219-1225
During hot weather cows typically reduce feed intake and actively seek shade and water to reduce the metabolic stress on their bodies. This can have a negative impact on the occurrence of voluntary milking visits to an automatic milking system (AMS) operating with voluntary traffic, thus reducing milking frequency. Shade is known to be effective in alleviating heat stress in dairy cattle; however, the impact of providing shade at the milking facility of a pasture-based AMS on time taken to voluntarily enter a milking unit is unknown. A herd of similar to 300 lactating cows milked in a pasture-based AMS were divided into two groups during the summer of 2016. Each group spent 4 weeks in a SHADE (predominately shaded pre-milking yard) and a NO-SHADE (predominantly non-shaded pre-milking yard) treatment, with two periods in a crossover design. Cow respiration rates, time spent in pre- and post-milking areas, concentrate consumption and milk yield were recorded. On average, cows in the SHADE treatment were found to take longer to enter the milking unit than did cows in the NO-SHADE treatment (SHADE = 11.40 min, NO-SHADE = 8.70 min, P < 0.001). SHADE was also associated with lower average respiration rates (SHADE = 68 breaths per minute (bpm), NO-SHADE = 73 bpm, P < 0.001), increased concentrate consumption (SHADE = 6.50 kg/cow.day, NO-SHADE = 6.39 kg/cow.day, P = 0.03) and increased milk yield (SHADE = 11.44 kg/cow.milking, NO-SHADE = 10.95 kg/cow.milking, P < 0.001). Overall, SHADE made available to the cows pre-milking appeared to improve cow performance and comfort (as indicated by reduced respiration rates).