Cow behaviour and managerial aspects of fully automatic milking in loose housing systems

C.C. Ketelaar-de Lauwere

Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


<p>In this study of cow behaviour and managerial aspects of fully automatic milking, the emphasis was on implementing automatic milking systems (AMS) in cubicle houses in a way that suits cows and farmer. The starting points of the research were that the cows would visit the AMS voluntarily and that the system would be available almost continuously. The effects of the cows' social hierarchy, the cow traffic towards the AMS and the combination of grazing and fully automatic milking were studied.</p><p>The cows' social hierarchy only affected the timing of forage eating and AMS visits. Cow routing procedures that more or less forced cows to visit the AMS because that was the only way they could reach the forage appeared to be questionable with regard to the cows' adaptation to the AMS environment. In these cases of forced cow routing, eating behaviour seemed to be postponed or even thwarted and there was more idle standing. Free cow traffic, during which cows could themselves decide when to visit the AMS, did not appear to suit the farmer because the milking frequency of individual cows was not sufficiently reliable. A third type of cow traffic in which cows could move freely between the feeding and lying areas but had to pass through the AMS to reach the concentrate feeder appeared to be a good solution for both the farmer and the cows. The cows paid sufficient visits to the AMS, had shorter waiting times in front of the concentrate feeder and less aggression was seen there. Supplying new concentrate every four hours instead of every two hours increased the time spent resting in the barn.</p><p>It was found that grazing and fully automatic milking could be combined. When cows had access to a pasture they did return to the AMS by themselves several times a day, depending on the weather and the sward height. Cows spent more time indoors when the ambient temperature was high. At lower sward heights, they also spent more time indoors and at the feeding gate, paid more visits to the AMS and were milked more often. Distances of up to 350 m between the pasture and the barn did not affect the number of AMS visits.</p>
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Noordhuizen, J.P.T.M., Promotor, External person
  • Metz, J.H.M., Promotor
  • Schouten, W.G.P., Promotor
Award date11 Jun 1999
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789058080530
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • dairy cows
  • animal behaviour
  • machine milking
  • robots
  • loose housing
  • management
  • animal welfare
  • dairy farming

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