ID Lelystad, Institute for Animal Science and Health
Refereed Article in a scientific journal
The aim of this study was to analyze the effect of robotic milking (RM) on fertility and somatic cell counts (SCC) among dairy herds participating in the national Dutch milk recording system. It was hypothesized that RM, and a higher milking frequency in general, would have negative effects on fertility, due to expected and supposed deeper negative energy balance (NEB). Herds increasing milking frequency from two to three times daily consistently had increased production. Milk production during RM was intermediate between the amounts obtained by milking twice versus three times a day. Milking three times a day and the associated higher production had no significant effect on reproductive measures such as nonreturn rate at 56 d post insemination (NR56) or days to first service. Although RM did not affect NR56, use of the robot was associated with an increase in days to first service. An increase in milking frequency from two to three times daily did not affect SCC, but SCC were significantly increased after milking with the robot. Robotic milking has a significant positive effect on production and no negative effect on fertility as measured by NR56. The effect of RM in increasing days to first service appears due to reasons other than increased production and a more NEB. Increased SCC during RM is potentially of concern. From the data available, the relationship of RM to clinical mastitis could not be determined but this aspect needs further attention.
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