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Automatic milking
Implications of the introduction of automatic milking on dairy farms

The proposal aims to integrate knowledge on, and develop solutions for, any adverse effects brought about by the introduction of automatic milking systems, which would be a major technological innovation in dairy farms in European Union Member States. The results of the project should facilitate the smooth introduction of automatic milking without adverse effects on farming conditions, the well-being of cows, the quality of milk and public acceptance, while complying with EU and national legislation. These objectives will be achieved through an international and multidisciplinary research and dissemination approach involving a variety of research techniques.

The objectives of the project are:
1) to identify determinants for the adoption of automatic milking on dairy farms in north-western European Member States
2) to assess the implications of the adoption of automatic milking systems in the realms of socio-economic aspects at farm level, public acceptance, milk quality, animal health and welfare, and farm management support requirements
3) to generate solutions for any adverse effects on the widespread use of automatic milking in the early stages of adoption
4) to disseminate results among research centres, policy-makers, farmers, manufacturers of milking equipment and the dairy industry.

Progress to Date
The project, broken down into the following 11 Work Packages, is progressing well and all the various stages have been reported on.
1. Socio-economic aspects of automatic milking
2. Public acceptance of automatic milking
3. Redefinition of acceptable milk quality
4. Milk quality on farms with an automatic milking system
5. Prevention of antibiotic residues
6. Effectiveness of automatic cleaning of udder and teats and effects of hygiene management
7. Optimal cleaning of equipment
8. Health of dairy cows milked by an automatic milking system
9. Welfare assessment of dairy cows in automatic milking systems
10. Automatic milking and grazing
11. Demands and opportunities for operational management support.

The achievements to date can be summarised as follows:
1) Relevant variables related to farm enterprises, their environment and the management style of farmers, which may affect the adoption of automatic milking in north-western European Member States, were identified.
2) Farm-level implications of the adoption of automatic milking with respect to the technical, economic and environmental efficiency and organisation of the farm enterprise were assessed.
3) It was established whether, and under what conditions, automatic milking is a production technology that is or can be accepted by society.
4) Options for (re)definition, in operational terms, of acceptable and unacceptable milk quality were developed, and the state-of-the-art in automatic milking systems designed to detect and separate substandard milk automatically were tested.
5) Effects of automatic milking on the quality of farm milk were established, the technical and managerial factors affecting milk quality identified and control methods formulated.
6) The effectiveness of the cleaning methods used for automatic milking systems, under optimal use of water, energy and chemicals, were established, and proposals for technological optimisation identified and tested.
7) The impact of changing from conventional to automated milking systems on the incidence of infectious diseases in cow herds was assessed, areas of risks and of particular advantage identified, and best management practices and technical solutions to reduce the disease risk and safeguard milk quality were formulated.
8) Welfare indicators for implementation in a welfare assessment protocol for cows milked by automatic milking systems were developed.
9) Grazing strategies on farms with automatic milking were surveyed and the possibilities of exploiting the natural behaviour of cows in systems combining grazing with automatic milking were examined.
10) Requirements for management information to perform control tasks on farms with automatic milking systems were generated, and the possibilities of using data collected by an automatic milking system for management information were identified.
11) Achievements have been actively disseminated internationally.

Classified in FOOD, ANIMALS

Scientist responsible for the project

Runderweg 6 Box 2176
8203 AD Lelystad
Netherlands (The) - NL

Phone: +31 320 293211
Fax: +31 320 241584


Project ID QLRT-1999-31006
Organisation Research Institute for Animal Husbandry
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 December 2000
Duration (months) 43
Total cost 3 630 104 €
Total EC contribution   2 420 001 €
Status Completed

The partners

  • Research Station for Cattle, Sheep and Horse Husbandry, Netherlands (The) - NL

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