...For your herd and your farms finances as well!
Effective dairy farming requires constant and careful control over production costs. This is the reason why many dairy farmers have decided to upgrade their farms with Automatic Cluster Removal systems (ACR). The main aim of this is usual to save upon labour costs, although throughout this blog entry we will see that this is not the only benefit that ACR systems can bring. You may already be aware of the main purpose of ACR system, but in case you are not: an ACR determines when the milk flow rate is low enough to detach the milking machine(Cluster) from the udder. Considering this, the milk flow rate is key for the effective function of an ACR.
The importance of milk flow rate in ACR systems
Milk flow rate and the residual milk left in the udder after milking are unquestionably linked to milking efficiency and the overall protection of udder health. Monitoring and actively managing these two factors can help to adapt milking parlours, and the procedures with in them to the physical requirements of the cow and support the wider management of the herd itself. Monitoring milk flow is key to adapting the milking parlour to the animal, and vital if you want to take full advantage of an ACR system. Dairy farmers need to set the parameters for the milk flow rate correctly. The higher the flow rate setting, the earlier the unit will determine the end of milking. That is why ACR systems are said to care for the cow’s health as they aim to avoid over-milking, reducing the stress on teats-end and thus lowering the risk of mastitis. But you may wonder is there a certain point where higher ACR settings lead to a reduction in total milk yield, and if so, what are the correct parameters to apply to avoid this?
Keeping in mind that every parlour is as unique as every cow is, we cannot establish a universal rule, but we can share data and best practice based upon experience & case studies. Sometimes farmers and operators mistake milk flow and milk volume. For example, a farmer may think that if he sets the ACR to remove the cluster with a flow rate equal to 600 ml/min, this means the cow still has 600ml of milk remaining in the udder. For this reason, he aims to lower this parameter to milk out the cow as much as possible, but that is incorrect: milk flow rate differs from milk volume. It is important to consider that 15%-20% of the milk should remain in the udder. Setting an ACR with a milk flow rate that is too low, leads to increased machine-on-time, placing unneeded stress on the animals and raising the risk of hyperkeratosis and or mastitis, with both having a negative effect on milking speed.
A study conducted by US scientists discovered that increasing the milk flow rate to 1200 ml/min (exactly: 1200 ml/min!) allowed a reduction in the total milking time and maintained/improved teat condition, without altering or having a detrimental effect on both milk production and milk quality. This increased milking speed had a secondary effect and benefit in reducing time spent away from feed and cubicles, in turn reducing standing time waiting to be milked.
With this in mind we need to also factor in the management of the animals when determining the flow rate levels that are correct for that herd. As a rule of thumb, the higher the herd average, the higher the milk flow rate at takeoff, this is also the case for the number of milking’s per day. So, a herd of cows milked 3 times a day should have a higher takeoff setting compared to those milked once a day. So, as an example we have herds using vented liners where cows are milked 4 times a day with daily herd average of over 44 liters per cow per day, giving an ACR flow rate at takeoff of around 1000 ml/min.
What to consider when choosing an ACR system
It is then very important to consider the setting parameters that an ACR offers so that you can make the correct choice. We know that on the market there are many ACR systems available to grant a perfect vacuum control, reducing its fluctuation to the minimum, as they can control the pulsation parameters. They can ensure full control over the milking point through the possibility to set customized pulsation rates and ratios, changing up to the single unit (not only by five as happens with less flexible systems). This means they can adapt not only to the parlour but even to the single animal. This feature is particularly important when using vented liners.
Main benefits of ACR systems
ACRs can be an attractive economic investment. The intangible costs and benefits are also important factors to consider when choosing to install ACRs.
Check out this video below of our iMilk600 smoothly detaching our Impulse Air Cluster, gentle on the cow and easy for the operator!
Date: 09 September 2020