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Measuring and monitoring animal welfare, feed additive solutions to reduce livestock emissions (e.g., Algae), breeding strategies to breed more resilient animals, reducing the need for medicine, and finding solutions to support animal behaviour are some of the key trends in sustainable dairy farming according to three DeLaval experts who shared some insights during an internal webinar.

DeLaval meets many of the challenges identified as key trends through our existing products and solutions, but are also closely following the needs of the farmers and align our innovation strategy accordingly. “Another important aspect for the dairy industry is of course consumer demands. We all must ensure that milk is produced in a way that is acceptable by consumers. Animal welfare is high on the agenda for consumers,” says Lior Yaron, Senior Advisor, Large Customer Project Support & Development at DeLaval.  

Animal welfare and longevity has a large impact on environmental sustainability 

Short productive lifespans can compromise farm profitability and sustainability through involuntary culling of young, high producing cows. Calf rearing depreciated over too few lactations and involuntary culling are often results of avoidable diseases. DeLaval supports our customers to achieve their sustainability goals by inventing and developing solutions that enable a high level of animal welfare, high production efficiency, high reproduction efficiency and longevity. Good animal health, effective milk production and an efficient reproduction can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the farm.

Precision dairy management plays a crucial role for better animal welfare and longevity. “We will be more sustainable if we understand how farmers work and manage their animals, if we adapt solutions to farm situation and goals, through evidence-based Standard Operating Procedure and management to achieve herd goals as we all understand what motivates farmers and staff to achieve their goals,” says Ilka Klaas, Dairy Development Director at DeLaval.

One example of how DeLaval works with animal welfare in practice is from a large production system in South America. Enrique Bombal, Regional Market Development Manager Cow Longevity Market Area Latin America, shared results from a research project called “Effects of the design of a robotic milking system on the welfare of lactating cows kept in free-stall barns in a mega-farm”.

Automatic Milking Systems (AMS) have been used for almost 30 years, but there are very few studies on animal welfare in large farms.

The objective of this study was to compare the behaviours and welfare of cows milked in three different robot facilities with different layout.

The study shows that there are differences between the welfare of lactating cows in a robotic mega-farm, and differences between pen layouts are observed. The behaviour of the animals in the pre-milking waiting yard can vary depending on the design. “Today, with knowledge and new technologies, we have a clear opportunity to improve animal welfare, longevity, environmental impact, herd productivity, and dairy profitability, but more research will be necessary to further assess the impact of these systems on animal welfare,” says Enrique.

“This webinar is the first in a series of internal webinars to increase and deepen our knowledge sharing in all three pillars of our sustainability strategy. We need to up our game when it comes to understanding the complexity of sustainability and avoid oversimplifying complex issues,” says Lars Johansson, SVP Corporate Communications & Sustainability.