Physical and economic comparison of pasture-based automatic and conventional milking systems.

Discipline: milking systems: Keywords: robotic milking, profitability, productivity, economics, business analysis

Technological advancements allow dairy farmers to increase the efficiency of use of land, labour, and capital to produce milk. Automatic milking systems (AMS) offer the possibility to increase productivity and profitability by potentially improving labour efficiency, milk production, animal welfare, and lifestyle. The reasons for the slower than expected adoption of AMS in some parts of the world are unclear but could be related to the lack of demonstration of the physical and economic performance of this technology in comparison with conventional milking systems (CMS). Most of the research comparing physical and economic performance of AMS and CMS has been conducted using simulation models. Therefore, the objectives of the study of Dr J.L. Gargiulo and colleagues were to compare the physical and economic performance of AMS and CMS using data from commercial Australian pasture-based dairy farms and to identify gaps for improving AMS productivity and profitability. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 103 of 2020, page 8231 to 8240. Then title of the paper is: Physical and economic comparison of pasture-based automatic and conventional milking systems.

The researchers used data from 14 AMS and 100 CMS located in the main Australian dairy regions and collected over three years (2015–2016, 2016–2017, 2017–2018). Farms within similar regions and herd sizes were compared.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The results showed that all the main physical performance indicators evaluated such as milk production per cow, milk production per hectare, pasture grazed per hectare, or milk solids per full-time equivalent were similar between systems. The AMS farms had higher overhead costs such as depreciation, and repairs and maintenance; however, no differences in total labour costs were observed. Profitability, measured as earnings before interest and tax, operating profit margin, and return on total assets, was not significantly different between AMS and CMS. Opportunities for improving pasture utilization, labour efficiency, and robot utilization in AMS farms were identified. Improving efficiency in these areas could improve productivity and profitability of these systems, and therefore increase the interest in this technology.