Why won’t my cows go to the milking robot more frequently?

Author: Kristine Piccart (ILVO) - Date: August 6, 2018

The success of automatic milking systems largely depends on the cow’s own motivation to visit the milking unit several times a day. Ideally, the average milking frequency does not drop below 2.4 times per day. But what if it does?

The first thing to do, is to analyse the potential problem. By only looking at herd averages, you run the risk of glossing over potential problems in a specific subset of cows. Low-yielding cows at the end of their lactation do not need to visit the milking robot as often. The high-producing cows in their early lactation, on the other hand, should find their way to the milking unit easily, and reach a milking frequency of 3 times a day – or more.

Ultimately, the cow’s main motive to visit the milking robot is feed. If the number of visits starts to decline, check the concentrate dispenser in the milking robot. Also, palatability is key in “luring” the cows to the milking robot. Even minor changes in the quality or composition of the concentrates or forage at the feed bunk can alter the visiting behaviour of the cows.

But every farm is different, of course. General management factors such as herd size, access to pasture, barn design, indoor climate, type of cow traffic, … all have a huge effect on the overall milking frequency. Sick or lame cows will also be less motivated to go to the milking robot. Make sure your cows are in good health when you notice the visiting frequency starts to decline.

Finally, if all other causes can be excluded, one should look for stray voltage. Problems with stray voltage –or current leakage- are often misdiagnosed, and usually require the involvement of industry specialists.