ALPRO - een professionele herd management tool

ALPRO® is a totally integrated system for monitoring and controlling milk production on a dairy farm. Each hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it controls feeding, records milk yields, controls cow activity and gives you immediate access to very important information. This information provides help in finding any type of problem that can occur regarding milking, feeding, breeding and health. It can also be used for follow-up and long-term planning. All these together are essential parts in your strive towards improved and successful herd management.

System description

The ALPRO® system is built around a system processor connected to feeding stations, milking parlours, identification, cutter gates and so on. With the userfriendly system, you do not have to be a computer expert to operate and understand the processor. The menus are logical and makes the daily work easy. A PC can be connected to the processor using the ALPRO® Windows software.

ALPRO® system

This user interface enables you to have an even better overview of the herd and might be preferred when working with more comprehensive activities, for example, analysing data.

The ALPRO® Windows programme has a mirror data base (version 6) which makes it possible to disconnect the PC and work in the programme somewhere else. When the PC is connected again, the processor and PC will synchronise automatically.

In regards to feeding, the system can handle in-parlour feeding, out-of-parlour feeding, calf feeding and rail suspended feed wagons. Up to eight milking parlours with different configurations, e.g. herringbone, parallel, tandem, trigon, polygon or rotary type, can be connected. All functions at the milking point (pulsation, Duovac®, take-off and milk metering) are handled by DeLaval milking point controller MPC. In addition to this, DeLaval milking point controller MPC also is an information terminal for the user.

ALPRO® is an open and flexible system, which means that modules can be added to a present system. This includes existing as well as future options. The different hierarchically arranged configurations are:

  1. Milking stand alone
  2. Feeding stand alone
  3. Milking and feeding integrated system
  4. Milking and feeding system connected to an external personal computer

As milking is a very important and time demanding operation on a dairy farm, the ALPRO® system provides the farmer with many features to improve the production and increase the efficiency in the parlour.

By using all these functions, it is possible to increase milk yields, improve quality, improve cow health and save a considerable amount of working time.

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Milk records Parlour information & control Cow traffic control Automatic milking controls

- Milk yield recording

- Peak milk flow rate

- Average flow rate

- Duration of milking per cow

- Duration of milking session

- Programmable cow status indicators

- Programmable remind codes

- Low yield alarm

- Feed intake

- Cutter gates

- Parlour gates

- Crowd gates

- Automatic take-off

- Flow controlled milking

- Electronic pulsation

Daily milk yield recording is one of the most important decision aids for fine tuning the herd. With ALPRO® this is done fully automatically at each milking session and the data is then stored in the processor. This information, together with flow rates, duration, low yield alarms etc., provides the farmer with exact and timely information of a cow’s or group.s production on a day to day basis.

It is possible to view the information either through the processor itself or through the MPC, which makes it easy to e.g. compare today.s yield with yesterday.s and the seven-day average in the parlour. If a cow milks less than expected (depending on the pre-set alarm level), this will automatically be indicated on the MPC in the parlour. A manager who wants to check if something of interest or importance has happened during a particular milking session can always do so, since the information is accessible at any time in the processor.

The milking information can also be used to:

  • Make sure that early actions are taken.
  • Evaluate a milker.s performance.
  • Calculate and evaluate feed rations for individual cows or groups to maximize the milk production and avoid over and/or underfeeding.
  • Identify cows in heat. Research shows that decline in morning milk might indicate oestrus.
  • Identify cows with potential health problems early by using milk yield, feed intake, peak flow rate etc. For example, ketosis is related to a gradual decrease in milk production before it can be diagnosed.
  • Increase parlour throughput (cows/man hour) up to 25%. Milking duration allows you to group cows with the same unit on time.
  • Evaluate long-term milk production for individual cows by looking at milk yield, average flow rate, feed consumption etc. This can then be used for economic breeding and culling decisions.

The ALPRO® system makes it possible for a herd manager to control a milking session, even if a relief or new milker performs the job in the parlour. By preprogramming actions that must be taken during a milking, it is possible to block the milking of a particular cow, indicate treatment and dumping of milk, pre-programme separation of individual cows etc.

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By using automatic crowd gates, parlour gates and cutter gates, it is possible to improve the cow traffic significantly, which has a direct impact on the parlour throughput. Cutter gates make it easy and efficient to separate cows needing extra attention (e.g. insemination, hoof trimming, veterinary treatment etc.). The flexibility of the system makes it possible to programme the separation either before the milking or during it.

Managing feeding with ALPRO®

Feeding during the weeks before and after calving are strategically very important, as a disturbance during this period will have a significant impact on total lactation yield. The cow.s quick increase in energy demand after calving requires high feed intake to reach a high peak yield.

With the ALPRO® system the manager can monitor and control the feeding of concentrates to each individual cow during both this period and the rest of the lactation and the dry-off period. By doing so, you can make sure that the cows always get the right amount of energy, protein, minerals, vitamins etc. This ensures an economical and efficient use of the feed, which will have positive effects on the total yield.

The feeding functions in the ALPRO® system offer the user several ways to programme, calculate and control the feed rations. The main features are:

  • Programming of a .fixed. pre-calculated ration for an individual cow
  • Feed adjustments for groups
  • Semi-automatic calculation of feed rations by using user defined Feed Tables
  • Feed alarms through Alarm Lists and Early Warning List
  • Steam-up and Step-up/Step-down functions

If a cow eats less then expected, the herd manager will immediately be made aware of this through an alarm funation. This timely information ensures that a potential health problem will be highlighted early and a rapid action can be taken to minimise the production loss, veterinary costs etc.

Attention and alarm lists can be printed on a daily basis and the feed consumption can easily be compared with the milk yield performance. If only a feeding system is used, the milk yields can be entered manually. The system also offers the dairy farmer individual Steam-up and Step-up/Step-down functions that facilitate the preparation for high concentrate intake respectively the feeding to yield strategy.

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Controlled feeding in combination with automatic individual milk yield recording provides the herdsman with an excellent management tool. The information provided by the system can be used for diagnoses and follow-up. A chosen feeding strategy can easily be evaluated by comparing the yield response to a changed ration. To be economically motivated, the increase in milk yield must be worth more or at least the same as the cost of the increased amount of concentrates.

Let us look at an example. Assume you increase the concentrate ration to a cow by four kg per day (feed price: £0.12/kg). After a few days, you realize that the yield response is three kg per day (milk price: £0.22/kg). Was it profitable to increase the concentrate ration?

By comparing the cost of the extra feed (4 x 0.12 = £0.48) with the income from the extra produced milk (3 x 0.22 = £0.66) it is possible to make the conclusion that it was profitable as £0.48 is less than £0.66. It will be profitable to increase the ration until the cost of extra amount of concentrates equals the income from the extra produced milk (For further information see The Marginal Principle in chapter 3).

Feeding for Loose-Housing
In a loose-housing system, the concentrates are distributed by feed stations and/or dispensers in the parlour. Each cow gets their own individual ration. By dividing the cows into different feed groups, they can physically be treated as one group. Although, when looking at feeding adjustments, they can easily be implemented for a whole group of cows simultaneously.

The ALPRO® system uses a unique Continuous Qualification Algorithm that spreads the feeding over the whole day and prevents .rush hours. in the feeding station. It also allows the cows to follow their own behavioural patterns.

This stabilises the rumen pH, which has a positive effect on rumen health, feed utilisation and milk yield. The dispenser is also set to dispense at the same rate that the cow eats, so called .trickle feeding.. This function ensures that no feed is left in the manger when a cow leaves the feeding station and it is therefore no incentive for a cow to push another away.

The system is also smart enough to adjust the speed of each feed so the composition is always constant over time for the same animal. To avoid overfeeding, certain limitations are designed into the system that limits the cow not to eat more than a set percentage of her daily ration.

Feeding for Stanchion Barns
Rail suspended feed wagons can be used to automatically feed concentrate in stanchion barns up to ten times a day. This improves feed utilisation, animal health and has a positive influence on the total milk yield. DeLaval feed wagons with ALPRO® can feed up to eight different concentrates to make the best possible mix for each cow.

  

Rail suspended feed wagon

Calf feeding
A calf feeder automatically dispenses milk to the calf through an artificial teat. Each calf is identified by a transponder and can therefore be treated individually. The feeding is performed in a biologically correct way, just as if they were suckling their mothers, and the ration can gradually be increased according to growth and decreased when it is time for weaning.

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The automation saves both milk and labour and ensures that the milk is always available and served fresh. Regardless of who takes care of the calves, the system ensures that the calves get the right amount of feed. The feeder can handle a milk replacer mixed with water, fresh milk or sour milk and be linked to the ALPRO® system or used as stand alone.

 

 

Calf feeder

Using ALPRO® for reproductive management and breeding

Compared to an ordinary stand alone management programme, the ALPRO® system gives the dairy farmer extended possibilities. With the integration of milk recording and feeding, it is possible to compare this data with e.g. manually observed signs of heat.

A dairy cow that is in heat normally drops slightly in milk production and might reduce her feed intake. All this can easily be evaluated with the ALPRO® system where you have all the information stored in the processor.

DeLaval activity meter

The system also produces an attention list containing valuable breeding information such as:

  • Cows due to be inseminated
  • Cows expected to be in heat
  • Cows to be checked for pregnancy
  • Cows to be dried off
  • Cows to be steamed up before calving
  • Cows that are due to calve

To save valuable and expensive working time and to improve the heat detection further, DeLaval ALPRO® activity meters can be added to the system. The ALPRO® system uses a radio link to collect the activity information once an hour. This high number of daily readings in combination with a Smart Filter ensures that the farmer will get early information, which makes it possible to plan inseminations and separations well before a milking session. These benefits together will have a great impact on the dairy.s calving interval and overall profitability. The increase in activity is illustrated in figure 36 below.

To get the best possible heat indications, the ALPRO® system provides the herd manager with the following data: 

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A cows activity during a period of heat monitored by DeLaval activity meter

  •  Activity
  • Expected heat date
  • Individual feed consumption
  • Individual milk yield development

Improving herd health and milk quality with ALPRO®

The ALPRO® system, with milk yield recording, activity metering and individual concentrate feeding, provides the dairy farmer with an excellent tool for herd health management. Disturbances in milk production and/or in the metabolism, which usually indicate health problems, are easily and early found with the daily recordings. The processor provides the manager with an alarm list containing those cows that have not consumed their ration. The feed information can then be matched with the milk yields and manual observations to facilitate diagnoses. This lowers the risk for costly drops in milk yield and unnecessary expenses for vet and medicine.

To ensure good udder health, which decreases the risk for mastitis, the ALPRO® system uses FCM together with electronically controlled pulsators and automatic take-off. During the first seconds of milking, as well as during the end of the milking, the milk flow is low (see figure 37 below). The ALPRO® system measures the flow continuously to adjust the vacuum level and pulsation frequency in the beginning and at the end of the milking. This results in a more gentle treatment of the teats during the low milk flow.

Flow controlled milking

Economic benefits generated by the ALPRO® system

The records stored in the ALPRO® processor provides the manager with valuable information, which can be used for economic follow-up. By doing so, there are great opportunities for continuous improvements and improved profitability. Several studies have shown that farms with ALPRO® systems have experienced significantly positive effects on the dairy operation. The main benefits can be summarised by the following points:

  • A significant increase of milk yields
  • More efficient and economical use of concentrates
  • Saved working time
  • Improved herd health and milk quality
  • Improved reproduction

These benefits are mainly due to the automation of a number of operations, improved control and better decision support. The system helps the manager to early observe potential problems, implement decisions and monitor the effects of a taken action, but the final decision making is still up to the manager.

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A study of two ALPRO® farms in the Netherlands and one in Wales, showed the economic results illustrated in the diagram below. The Annual extra income generated by ALPRO® only includes the economic effects on milk yield (deducted by the cost of leasing quota) and the use of concentrates. If working time, herd health, milk quality etc. had been included, the economic result would have been even better.

 

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