Tomorrow's Robot Cow

Traits to consider for tomorrow’s robot cow

An increasing number of dairy producers are looking at installing Robotics for both labor-saving and herd efficiency reasons.

Introducing ‘Robotic Milking Specialist’ sires into the catalog was an obvious step for STgenetics® to take due to the uptake of more and more dairymen across the sector moving towards further automation.

Moving cows to a new milking facility can be stressful and disruptive to the performance of any herd. Preparation for start-up is key to experiencing success in Robotic Milking. To achieve a successful installation, dairy producers are making sure the cows are healthy, developing their robot feed strategy, adapting their barn design for maximum cow comfort, hiring the correct employees to manage the robots, but most importantly of all selecting the right genetics, and breeding a cow suited to the system. It is a whole system approach that includes evolving, learning and adapting to drive production and ensure optimized box time per cow.

Over the past decade, there have been significant advances in Robotic Milking technology. The system remembers a cow’s physical configuration and knows how to attach successfully. Additionally, machines now exist that do not use the claw cluster principal and therefore are not limited by height or distance. Today’s Robotic Milking systems not only milk the cows, but also collect endless amounts of data that can be used for herd management and also for breeding and feeding.

Initially the larger producers were the first seen to be introducing Robotics, now they are also being installed on smaller farms as well. This is due to increasing concerns about labor shortages in the future, and the desire to retrieve more information about the cows to allow improvements in herd efficiency and management.

With increased Robotic usage comes a greater requirement to breed cows to get the most from your investment. So which traits should you consider integrating into your breeding strategy?

Traits to consider for tomorrow’s robot cow to maximize your output

STgenetics® recommends considering the following traits in your herd’s Robotic breeding program to maximize performance and efficiencies.

Milking Speed

At STgenetics® we believe that the most important factor to drive robot capacity and profitability is Milking Speed.

With a Robot limited to the number of cows that it can milk per day, one of the ways to increase its productivity is to breed cows that are quicker to milk. Cows that milk faster spend less time in the box and quickly free up the robot for the next cow.

Dairymen wanting to improve productivity may want to milk cows several times per day to maximize yield. But, using a conventional system, this comes at a high cost with increased labor needs. With Robotics we often see these cows choosing to return more times a day, and automatically increase their yields.

However, getting the balance right between a faster milking speed and potential infection from a more open teat end is vital. It is critical to know that higher speeds often go hand-in-hand with higher somatic cells counts, as the teats are more open.
Cow Flow at Robot

Cow flow is another important aspect to consider when breeding for a Robotic system. A cow must be able to easily move through the barns and to the robot without any disruption.
Factors that effect cow flow include the temperament of the cow, and her ability to work on a functional set of feet and legs. It’s the quieter cow that learns quickly that responds to the Robotic system. The robots are always placed in a calm and quiet environment on the farm, and it will usually take between 3 to 7 days for a cow to adapt.
Easy locomotion, and healthy hooves ensure maximum productivity. A functional set of feet and legs is not only crucial to ensure she performs to her best and lasts for several lactations, but also her ability to walk into the robot. A lame cow will spend more time lying down, so won’t be as likely to get up and go to the robot, consequently her yield could fall when she is left to make her own choice about when to be milked.

Udder Health

STgenetics® ranks Udder Health as another one of the most important traits for robot cows.
Cows with good udder health, confirmation and udder alignment dramatically reduce attachment time for the robot. The robot system can handle the majority of cows in a herd, but the better udder conformation the faster the attachment will be, which leads to an increase in milk output per day.
Consideration in udder selection should focus particularly on teat position and length. Therefore, it is important to aim to have moderate teat length, as well as a position that appears to be not too far back or in front. While technology is improving, once the robot has identified a cow with teat issues, it is possible for those with misplaced or missing teats to be milked inefficiently.
Having proper teat placement and length as well as overall udder conformation also assists the robot in properly cleaning the milking area. It is easy to pick up a cow with clinical mastitis in a parlour. With robots however, the producer is totally reliant on technology. The robots detect mastitis in a variety of ways, including electrical conductivity and light emission through milk.

Optimum Productivity

To achieve the goal of optimum productivity, the herd must be as efficient as possible, producing the most per robot with less cows per robot.

Feed represents 50-70% of the costs in a dairy operation, so increasing feed conversion efficiency has a major effect on profitability. By taking consideration of EcoFeed® into your breeding strategy will ensure that not only does the cow suit the Robotic system, but she is also consuming less, while producing the same output of milk containing high milk solids, and components aligned with your milk check. Producing more, on less.

Robotic Milking Designated Sires Available

In North America specifically, Canada has seen a more mature market for Robotic Milking than the U.S, with between 60-80% of new installations in freestall barns being Robotic.

With this in mind, STgenetics® has identified a selection of bulls in their latest catalog which will be particularly beneficial to Robotic herds.

With a wide range of sires to cover all of a breeder’s needs; from TPI, Components, Net Merit and STyle™, there is something for everyone.

SPORTY is one of the highest NM$ rated Robotic bulls, offering high milk, high fat and protein, and good milking speed. He produces good udders, nothing too extreme with good teat length and placement.

Other Robotic Milking sires available include HEIR, VITALE, BIG DEAL, RILEY, HARDBALL and BETTERMENT. The following sires are breeding the kind of cows that have correctly-placed teats so the robot can quickly find them, are very productive and have the functional feet and legs that will last for many lactations, easily moving them through the barns and to the robot.

Robotic Milking Specialist sires are all available in 4M™, the most advanced female-sorted semen on the market.

To view the full selection of Robotic Milking Specialist sires available at STgenetics® visit -

Click on Blue Button Below to Print this Article