student profile: Miss Ashleigh Wildridge


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Thesis work

Thesis title: Management and infrastructure considerations and their impact on cow welfare and behaviour in a pasture based AMS

Supervisors: Cameron CLARK , Ellen JONGMAN, Yani GARCIA , Peter THOMSON , Kendra KERRISK

Thesis abstract:

The welfare of production animals is always of high importance, as a stressed or unhealthy animal is also a non-productive animal. When automatic milking systems (AMS) were introduced to the dairy industry, the welfare of cows in these systems was investigated to ensure it was comparable to industry standards developed in conventional milking systems (CMS). The literature review (Chapter 2) explores the current knowledge of cow wellbeing in AMS compared to CMS, concluding that the wellbeing of cows is comparable between the systems and is seemingly more dependent on good management than on milking system type. The review also highlights some key differences to management of an AMS, identifying gaps in knowledge, including the unknown changes to the human-animal relationship associated with the differences in cow management between milking system types. Observation of five commercial dairy farms transitioning from CMS to AMS (Chapter 3) identified that the nature of the human-animal relationship had changed. After transitioning to an AMS, cows had a reduced fear response towards humans, where the mechanisation of the milking process and the voluntary nature of cow traffic reduced and changed the nature of interaction time between farm staff and the lactating cows. This change in routine may well benefit both cows and humans and the relationship between them. With further automation in the dairy industry expected to replace labour for repetitive tasks, cows were observed for their response to a simulation of automated of fetching. With a drop in voluntary milkings late at night, and the potential for cows in the afternoon pasture-allocation to display undesirably long milking intervals (MI), automation of fetching was simulated at night (Chapter 4). Cows successfully travelled voluntarily to and through the milking facility after being fetched out of a pasture allocation onto the laneway late at night, reducing their average MI and risk of having undesirably long MIs. The application of automated fetching, or even manually fetching cows at night is predicted to be particularly beneficial during situations where the ability of cows to traffic voluntarily may be compromised, such as during hot weather. The wellbeing, performance and locomotion of cows is known to be negatively affected by hot weather, however, the extent to which it impacts on cows in a pasture-based AMS is unclear. Therefore, to warrant the application of automated fetching or investigations into alternative management decisions during hot weather, the impact of hot weather on cows in a pasture-based AMS is first needed to be quantified (Chapter 5). A high temperature humidity index (THI) was associated with reductions in cow milking frequency (MF) and milk yield (MY) of cows milked in pasture-based AMSs, suggesting that night fetching or application of cow cooling in these systems is warranted. To address the reduced MF during hot weather, the encouragement of voluntary traffic to the milking facility with the use of shade between pasture and the milking facility was observed (Chapter 6). Five shade structures located approximately 150 m apart along a laneway encouraged cows to voluntarily travel further towards the milking facility from a feeding area, and reduced the cows respiratory rate and body temperature. Further use of shade in the pre-milking area at the milking facility increased pre-milking waiting time (albeit slightly), but reduced cow respiratory rate, improved MY (Chapter 7), reduced cow body temperature and increased rumination time while waiting to be milked (Chapter 8). Throughout this thesis an array of management and infrastructure considerations were investigated to suggest modifications to improve the behaviour and wellbeing of cows on a pasture-based AMS, particularly during periods of heat stress.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • Wildridge, A., Garcia, S., Thomson, P., Jongman, E., Clark, C., Kerrisk (nee Davis), K. (2017). The impact of a shaded pre-milking yard on a pasture-based automatic milking system. Animal Production Science, 57, 1219-1225. [More Information]

Conferences

  • Wildridge, A., Garcia, S., Thomson, P., Clark, C., Jongman, E., Kerrisk (nee Davis), K. (2016). The impact of a partially shaded lane way on voluntary cow movement to an automatic milking system. Dairy Research Foundation Symposium, Australia: N/A.
  • Wildridge, A., Garcia, S., Clark, C., Jongman, E., Kerrisk (nee Davis), K. (2015). Simulated auto - Fetching of dairy cows out of a night pasture allocation. Dairy Research Foundation Symposium, Australia: N/A.

Magazine / Newspaper Articles

  • Wildridge, A. (2017). Keeping cows cool with robotic milking. The Australian Dairy Farmer.

2017

  • Wildridge, A. (2017). Keeping cows cool with robotic milking. The Australian Dairy Farmer.
  • Wildridge, A., Garcia, S., Thomson, P., Jongman, E., Clark, C., Kerrisk (nee Davis), K. (2017). The impact of a shaded pre-milking yard on a pasture-based automatic milking system. Animal Production Science, 57, 1219-1225. [More Information]

2016

  • Wildridge, A., Garcia, S., Thomson, P., Clark, C., Jongman, E., Kerrisk (nee Davis), K. (2016). The impact of a partially shaded lane way on voluntary cow movement to an automatic milking system. Dairy Research Foundation Symposium, Australia: N/A.

2015

  • Wildridge, A., Garcia, S., Clark, C., Jongman, E., Kerrisk (nee Davis), K. (2015). Simulated auto - Fetching of dairy cows out of a night pasture allocation. Dairy Research Foundation Symposium, Australia: N/A.

Note: This profile is for a student at the University of Sydney. Views presented here are not necessarily those of the University.