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J Dairy Sci. 2020 Feb;103(2):1608-1619. doi: 10.3168/jds.2019-16658. Epub 2019 Nov 20.

Transitioning from conventional to automatic milking: Effects on the human-animal relationship.

Author information

1
Dairy Science Group, School of Life and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia. Electronic address: a.wildridge@gmail.com.
2
Dairy Science Group, School of Life and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia.
3
Animal Welfare Science Centre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic 3010, Australia.

Abstract

There are several differences in how an automatic milking system (AMS; milking equipment not requiring human intervention for the milk harvesting process) and a conventional milking system (CMS) are managed, where the effect of milking system type on the human-animal relationship has remained unexplored. A survey and observations from 5 Australian dairy farms transitioning from CMS to AMS were taken twice, 1 yr apart, before and after transition to an AMS. The farmers completed a survey and had all farmer-cow interactions documented for 3 d. In addition, a random selection of lactating cows had their avoidance distance (the distance at which they move away from an approaching person) recorded and were involved in a handling test during both visits. The survey findings indicated that basic management practices remained mostly unchanged, whereas records of farmer-cow interactions showed 4 out of 5 farms had less interaction time after AMS transition. This was caused by a reduction in milk harvesting tasks, where a small portion of this time was re-invested into time that farmers spent around the cows without directly interacting with them and into tasks involving close cow contact. Overall, an approximate 27% decline was observed in avoidance distances of cows from an AMS compared with the CMS. A handling test was performed on 4 of the 5 farms before and after AMS transition, where the farmers were asked to move a selection of cows through a gate one at a time. In the AMS more vocal effort was required to move the cows, and the cows responded with a reduced occurrence of running past the farmer and reduced occurrence of slipping in an attempt to avoid the farmers compared with the CMS. Overall, results show that farmers spent less time interacting with cows in the AMS, and that cows were less fearful around people as seen by reduced avoidance distances and reduced stress responses to close handling.

KEYWORDS:

behavior; dairy cattle; handling

PMID:
31759591
DOI:
10.3168/jds.2019-16658

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