The influence of the accessibility of concentrate on the behaviour of cows milked in an automatic milking system

  • C.C. Ketelaar-De Lauwere
  • A.H. Ipema
  • J.H.M. Metz
  • J.P.T.M. Noordhuizen
  • W.G.P. Schouten
Keywords: automatic milking system, concentrate feeding, behaviour


The advantages and disadvantages are discussed of forcing cows to visit the automatic milking parlour regularly by making it the only way for them to obtain supplementary feeds, vs. allowing cows to choose the frequency of their visits to the parlour. An alternative routing method was studied, in which the cows could move freely between the feeding and lying areas, but were stimulated to visit the automatic parlour by making it the only way of accessing the concentrate feeder. Two experiments were conducted, each with 2 treatments and 20 Holstein Friesian dairy cows. In the first treatment of experiment 1, the concentrate feeder was accessible only via the automatic parlour, and in the second treatment of experiment 1, concentrates were freely accessible. In both cases a new portion of concentrate became available once every 2 h. In experiment 2, the concentrate feeder was available only via the automatic parlour. A new portion of concentrate became available every 2 h during the first treatment of this experiment and every 4 h during the second treatment. Results showed that allocation of concentrate in a feeder which can only be reached via the automatic parlour is a good stimulus to attract cows to the parlour on a regular basis, because the milking frequency of these groups increased, and the waiting time in front of the concentrate feeder and the number of aggressive interactions in this area decreased. It is concluded that it is better to make concentrate available once every 4 h than once every 2 h, because this increases concentrate intake and rest in the barn.