AUSTRALIA - Moving cows with auto-herding techniques could maximise productivity in robotic systems, early Australian research indicates.
The University of Sydney has found that cows can be persuaded to head for milking at the most awkward times of the day.
Researchers simulated auto-herding by moving the herd from the pasture into the laneway to the robots and shutting the gate. This was done at 11pm and 1 am.
“I wanted to find out whether the cows would take themselves up to the dairy to be milked or if they’d just hang around in the laneway; and if the time of fetching made any difference,” said post graduate student, Ashleigh Wildridge.
“Most of the cows did in fact continue from the laneway up to the dairy to be milked. And the time of fetching didn’t make much difference.”
Australia’s pasture-based herds using automatic milking systems (AMS) tend to dip in milkings when cows rest – between 2am and 5am, explained Professor Kendra Kerrisk, project leader of Future Dairy.
The study, carried out on a 250 cow herd using four AMS box units in West Gippsland, Victoria, found cows with a 16 hour milking interval decreased four-fold from 4.6 per cent to 1.7 per cent.
Furthermore, mastitis incidence fell.
Researchers point to several potential gadgets that could be used to muster cows at times when their milking activity drops.
The University of Sydney’s own dairy unmanned ground vehicle is a robot which can be programmed to ‘calmly’ move cattle out of a paddock.
There is also a fence walker, already available in the industry for strip grazing purposes. Electrical shocks are delivered as an electrified wire moves forward attached to two robots.
Thirdly, a ‘virtual fence’ works by noise and electric pulses delivered by a cow collar, triggered when cows cross a predetermined boundary.
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