A cow in an automated milking unit.
All teat cups still on so far.

Swedish researchers shaved one minute off milking times in an automated milking system (robot) when they increased the setting for milk flow at take-off from 0.06 kg/min (0.13 lb/min) to 0.48 kg/min (1.06 lb/min). Well yeah, you’re thinking, of course it would. These researchers also measured milk composition, harvested milk yield, and the amount of residual milk left in the udder. And none of those things was significantly different between the take-off milk flow rates. (They also looked at a take-off flow level of 0.3 kg/min [0.66 lb/min]).

A similar study was conducted in New Zealand, where researchers looked at 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, and 0.8 kg/min (0.44, 0.88, 1.3, and 1.8 lb/min, respectively) milk flow rates for determining take-off. Here, the cows were milked in a rotary parlor, and take-off flow rates were for the unit rather than by quarter. They, too, found no differences in milk yield or milk composition.

So, you may want to check the minimum milk flow settings on your automatic takeoffs. Bumping that number up should decrease individual milking times without sacrificing milk production or altering composition. Getting cows through the robot faster is good for pounds of milk per robot. And who’s going to complain if (parlor) milking finishes a little earlier?

the articles:

Krawczel et al. 2017. Milking time and risk of over-milking can be decreased with early teat cup removal based on udder quarter milk flow without loss in milk yield. Journal of Dairy Science 100:6640–6647.

Edwards et al. 2013. Milking efficiency for grazing dairy cows can be improved by increasing automatic cluster remover thresholds without applying premilking stimulation. Journal of Dairy Science 96:3766–3773.

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