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Kilworth Farm AMS

Overview of the Farm

Research Focus: Grass based Automatic Milking System

A new study on automatic milking system (AMS) was established at Moorepark in Spring 2017. The focus of this current study is to challenge the system so as to optimize it over time. The system is being challenged as to the possibility of carrying a greater cow number in order to dilute the additional costs of investment. This study is focusing on optimizing cow numbers with a potentially lower milking frequency (less than 2.0 or 1.8 milkings/cow per day, on average) and maximizing the milk production output from the robot rather than from the individual cow. In order to focus on this, a number of key parameters are being addressed, i.e. (i) investigation of the most appropriate grazing strategy; (ii) the management of milking frequency (MF) at peak lactation, when cow demand for milking time on the robot is at a maximum; and (iii) optimizing efficient cow movement as influenced by cow-flow around the system and individual cow milking time. 

History: The farm is owned by Dairygold Co-operative Society Limited. Teagasc leases the farm and uses it to undertake some of its core dairy production research. The lease of this farm commenced in 2002. Of the 93 hectares present on the farm, 28ha have been allocated to the AMS.The current unit, a Lely A4 Astronaut, was installed in autumn 2016. Prior to this, there was a Fullwood Merlin in operation on the farm, from 2011-2015

Researcher: Bernadette O’ Brien

Research Technician: Caitriona Crowe

Location: Latitude 50°07’N, Longitude 08°16’W

Area: 28 ha

Milking Cows: 85 cows with replacement heifers and calves reared off farm

System: AMS grazing system – spring calving herd

The key to a successful AMS grazing system is the ability of the cow to present herself voluntarily for milking, over the 24h period. Also, as only one cow can be milked at a time, it is very important that not all cows present themselves at the same time, as this will lead to excessive queuing and waiting in the collecting yard.  Cow movement to the robot and around the system is controlled by the grazing management parameters. The key to this optimal cow flow is the correct allocation of grass throughout the day and night. In Kilworth, there is a 4 way grazing system in operation – ABCD. Therefore, cows have access to four different allocations of grass within a 24 hour timeframe. The decision as to which Block a specific cow will be sent to is determined by the time she approached the drafting gate. Below are the current times allocated to each block:

  • A: 09:00 – 14:00
  • C: 14:00 – 19:00
  • B: 19:00 – 01:00
  • D: 01:00- 09:00

For example, if a cow approaches the drafting gate 8am, and has either been milked or is not due to be milked, she will be sent to D. With an ABCD system, in theory, cows can pass through the yard four times per day, thus allowing them to be milked up to 4 times/day. However, cows are not milked each time they come to the yard, this is dependent on the milking permission which can be set for the herd as a whole, different groups, or for the individual cow.

Soil Type: Relatively free-draining acid brown earth of loam texture

Paddocks: 48 paddocks divided into 4 grazing blocks - ABCD

Dairy Infrastructure:

  • 1 Lely AMS
  • 2 Grazeway drafting gates
  • 1 winter housing shed

Farm Map

Yard Layout

Herd Profile 

The herd currently consists of 85 spring calving dairy cows. This number is predominantly made up of Holstein Friesian, 76, with the remaining comprised of 2 Jerseys, 1 Norwegian Red and 6 Jersey X- bred. This year there were 2 heifers which were unsuitable for the robot, due to their size. This is the second year that this group of cows have been milked on the AMS, and it has reduced the amount of time spent training and supervising cows considerably, in comparison to the previous year.