Journal article
Potential effects of automatic milking systems on grazing in organic dairy farming



Publication Details
Authors:
Bühlen, F.; Ivemeyer, S.; Krutzinna, C.; Knierim, U.
Publication year:
2014
Journal:
Organic Agriculture
Pages range:
301-308
Volume number:
4
ISSN:
1879-4238

Abstract
The use of automatic milking systems(AMSs) increases not only on conventional but also onorganic dairy farms. One of the most important aims oforganic livestock production is to safeguard good animal welfare. The use of AMS is discussed controversially in this regard, especially in terms of compatibilitywith grazing. The aim of the presented online survey oforganic dairy farmers with AMS, mainly in Germany,was to obtain insights into the compatibility betweenAMS and pasture use in organic dairy farming practice.Furthermore, it was surveyed to which degree AMS andconcentrate use are linked. Most of the responding 42farmers had implemented an AMS with free cow traffic(74 %). About half of the farms (54 %) used pastureafter the introduction of the AMS, but 29 % of the farmsthat had used grazing before have ceased pasturing afterthe introduction of the AMS. A decline of averagepasture area from 0.22 to 0.18 ha per cow occurred,and pasture systems shifted from rotational grazing(46 % before AMS introduction, 13 % with AMS) tocontinuous grazing (29 % before AMS introduction,70 % with AMS). In all farms fed concentrates in theAMS (on average, about 3 kg), 59 % stated that theamount had increased since the introduction of the AMSand only 2 % stated that it had decreased. Altogether,this points at a trend that the introduction of the AMS isbeing associated with increased concentrate feeding anda decrease or even cessation of grazing, depending onthe individual farm situation. Such an effect would notbe desirable in terms of animal welfare.

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