Discipline: management; Key words: cluster removal, milking efficiency, feeding, milk yield, milking interval, milk composition.
Although milking procedures in parlour are well-defined and mostly standardized, farmers should always explore ways to improve efficiency as time and labour costs are significant. Factors of importance are cluster take-off and whether or not one should feed during milking. This was the topic of a research project of Dr S. Ferneborg and colleagues which they published in the Journal of Dairy Research, Volume 83 of 2016, page 180 to 187. The title of their study was: Effects of automatic cluster removal and feeding during milking on milking efficiency, milk yield and milk fat quality.
They compared the effects of 200 versus 800 g per minute cluster take-off levels and feeding versus not feeding during milking using a Latin square design with 32 cows. Milk yield, milking time, milk flow and milking interval were measured, whereas milk samples were analysed for gross composition, sodium and potassium concentration, free fatty acid content, milk fat globule size, milk fat globule membrane material and fatty acid composition. Residual milk was harvested to evaluate udder emptying.
The results showed that by increasing the take-off level from 200 to 800 g per minute (whole udder basis), milking time was decreased and harvest flow was increased. Udder emptying decreased slightly, but milk yield, free fatty acid content and milk fat globule membrane material differences were not significant. There were significant interactive effects between take-off level and feeding during milking on content of fatty acids, which clouded interpretation. Feeding during milking increased milk yield per day and decreased milking interval. Sodium and potassium concentrations in milk were unaffected by treatments, indicating no loss of tight junction integrity.
The results suggest that cows should be fed during milking to increase milk yield and improve milking efficiency, regardless of take-off level, but that the effect of feeding is more pronounced when a low take-off level is implemented. It appears that feeding counteracts the effects of low take-off level on milking time and milking interval. Therefore, low take-off levels can be used in combination with feeding to increase efficiency.