Comparing technical efficiency of farms with an automatic milking system and a conventional milking system

W. Steeneveld, L.W. Tauer, H. Hogeveen, A.G.J.M. Oude Lansink

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Changing from a conventional milking system (CMS) to an automatic milking system (AMS) necessitates a new management approach and a corresponding change in labor tasks. Together with labor savings, AMS farms have been found to have higher capital costs, primarily because of higher maintenance costs and depreciation. Therefore, it is hypothesized that AMS farms differ from CMS farms in capital:labor ratio and possibly their technical efficiency, at least during a transition learning period. The current study used actual farm accounting data from dairy farms in the Netherlands with an AMS and a CMS to investigate the empirical substitution of capital for labor in the AMS farms and to determine if the technical efficiency of the AMS farms differed from the CMS farms. The technical efficiency estimates were obtained with data envelopment analysis. The 63 AMS farms and the 337 CMS farms in the data set did not differ in general farm characteristics such as the number of cows, number of hectares, and the amount of milk quota. Farms with AMS have significantly higher capital costs (€12.71 per 100 kg of milk) than CMS farms (€10.10 per 100 kg of milk). Total labor costs and net outputs were not significantly different between AMS and CMS farms. A clear substitution of capital for labor with the adoption of an AMS could not be observed. Although the AMS farms have a slightly lower technical efficiency (0.76) than the CMS farms (0.78), a significant difference in these estimates was not observed. This indicates that the farms were not different in their ability to use inputs (capital, labor, cows, and land) to produce outputs (total farm revenues). The technical efficiency of farms invested in an AMS in 2008 or earlier was not different from the farms invested in 2009 or 2010, indicating that a learning effect during the transition period was not observed. The results indicate that the economic performance of AMS and CMS farms are similar. What these results show is that other than higher capital costs, the use of AMS rather than a CMS does not affect farm efficiency and that the learning costs to use an AMS are not present as measured by any fall in technical efficiency. Key words: automatic milking , dairy , data envelopment analysis , technical efficiency
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7391-7398
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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