Sensors and management support in high-technology milking

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Two directions can be distinguished in the development of high-tech milking equipment: 1) high-capacity milking parlors with a high throughput of cows per person per hour and 2) automatic milking systems in which manual labor is replaced by a milking robot. High-capacity milking parlors are developed in such a way that one operator is able to milk many cows, partly by automation and partly by optimization of available labor. In such parlors, one operator can milk up to 125 cows per hour. This means that there are only a few seconds available for udder preparation. In an automatic milking system, a robot takes over all manual labor during milking. Currently available systems have one robot arm working with one milking stall (one-stall system) or one robot arm working with more milking stalls (multiple-stall systems). Cows have to go to the automatic milking system voluntarily. Therefore, there is a large variation in milking intervals. Moreover, a large variation between milkings and between cows was observed in milk flow rate, machine-on time and udder preparation time. Both developments in high-tech milking have effects on the milk ejection. The small amount of time dedicated to udder preparation in high-capacity milking parlors has negative effects on the milk ejection, among others leading to more bimodal milk flow curves and longer machine-on time. In automatic milking systems, the variation in time between udder preparation and cluster attachment and in milking frequency might have an effect on milk ejection. Lactation physiology can play a role in solving the questions around milk ejection in high-tech milking systems. The introduction of high-tech milking systems makes decision support systems using sensors necessary. These systems should assist in detection of abnormal milk and mastitis. To a lesser extent, diseased cows need to be brought to the attention of the dairy farmer. Some sensors are currently available for this purpose, but they do not fulfill all demands. In the near future other sensors might be developed. It is important that this development is demand driven and not technology driven. Lactation physiology can play an important role in the determination of milk components useful for automatic detection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue numbersuppl. 3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • dynamic light-scattering
  • dairy-cows
  • automatic milking
  • electrical-conductivity
  • robotic milking
  • body-weight
  • mastitis
  • systems
  • estrus
  • performance


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