The Benefits of Robot Breeding Values
To build a new parlor or to start milking with an automatic milking system (AMS) is a realistic question on many dairy producers mind. With advances in robot technology, more and more dairy operations are installing milking robots instead of a traditional milking system. Important qualities for milking in AMS operations are efficiency, short fetch lists, and the habituation of heifers. Starting in April 2016, producers in the US can include the CRV robot breeding values in breeding decisions to help increase these qualities needed for efficient AMS operations.
The robot traits
The new CRV robot traits are presented as three separate breeding values: Robot Efficiency, Heifer Habituation, and Milking Interval. Robot Efficiency indicates how efficiently a cow completes milking after entering the robot. Heifer Habituation represents how fast a heifer adapts to the AMS. Milking Interval is defined as the time interval between two milkings.
Six million milkings
With the number of robotic milking systems rapidly increasing, the data used to create these breeding values was gathered through milking robots in The Netherlands. The available data has and continues to increase immensely, with approximately six million robot milkings a week from 500,000 cows on over 4000 dairy farms. That brings the total number of robot milkings available for the breeding value estimations to 600 million and increasing daily.
What can breeding for robot traits bring you?
Table 1 shows the result of breeding for just Robot Efficiency. The calculation presumes a farm with an average robot efficiency. The available robot time is 20 hours per day. In this example all other factors remained the same. Using sires with a breeding value of 108 for Robot Efficiency resulted in daughters producing 0.39 lb. more milk per minute. This yields 561 lb. more milk per robot per day and yearly almost 204,984 lb. extra milk per robot. With an average milk yield of 60 lb. milk per cow per day, a dairy farmer can milk up to nine extra cows per robot. However, it should be noted that selecting for Robot Efficiency alone can have negative effects on total volume of milk produced due to increased somatic cell count, as rapid milk out cows are more susceptible to mastitis.
|Phenotypical daughter average (lb. milk/min)||3.16||3.36||3.56||3.76||3.96|
|Extra lb. milk per minute||-0.39||-0.19||0||0.19||0.39|
|Extra lb. milk per robot per day||-561||-273||0||273||561|
|Extra lb. milk per robot per year||-204,984||-99,645||0||99,645||204,984|
|Extra cows per robot, at production of 60 lb. milk/day||-9.0||-4.5||0||4.5||9.0|
Table 1. The effect of using the breeding value Robot Efficiency
The Heifer Habituation breeding value can help producers train fresh heifers to quickly visit the robot by themselves. “This breeding value represents how quickly a heifer gets used to a robot. Dairy producers observe huge differences between heifers. For example, one heifer is used to the robot much more quickly than another and now CRV USA has a way of measuring that,” stated David Wilson, Breeding Program Manager at CRV USA. The offspring of sires with a high breeding value for Heifer Habituation more quickly reach the ideal milking frequency. Figure 1 shows the differences per breeding value.
The figure shows the correlation between the relative breeding value and the percentage of offspring reaching the ideal milking interval earlier. A breeding value above 100 represents that, on average, 50% of the offspring will reach the ideal milking interval by week 3 postpartum. Only 30% of the daughters from sires with a breeding value of 92 reach the final milking interval by week 3 postpartum.
CRV USA calculates the breeding value Heifer Habituation by comparing the milking interval between successful milkings in the period directly after calving (weeks 1, 2, and 3) to the milking interval in a period later in the lactation (weeks 10, 11, and 12). A smaller difference between the average visit interval from early lactation and the average interval of late lactation, means that heifers habituated to the system more rapidly. The Heifer Habituation breeding value is only available on daughter proven sires.
The breeding value for Milking Interval represents the time between two successful milking visits, or how frequently a cow visits the robot and is milked. The average score of cows is 507 minutes, or almost 8.5 hours, for milking visits. Using sires with a breeding value of 104 for Milking Interval results in daughters with a 16.5 minute shorter interval time. The variation in milking interval can be quite great. Cows can have milking intervals that are roughly between 350 and 650 minutes, depending on production, stage of lactation, and several other factors. Cows with a longer milk interval (cows who visit the robot less) have to be fetched more often, making more work for the producer.
By using the robot traits, a dairy producer can aim for a herd which optimizes milking with an AMS. When added to selection criteria that includes production and confirmation, the CRV USA robot breeding values gives dairy producers more control over their breeding programs.
Want to learn more about the CRV USA robot traits? Contact your local CRV USA representative.