ArticleVolume Number April 9, 2019

AMS-generated component values: Will they be used any time soon?

Les composants des robots au contrôle laitier, c’est pour bientôt?

This is a question that is often asked by dairy producers who are equipped with milking systems that generate milk component and SCC values. The Canadian industry is well aware of that interest and has taken steps towards using the data provided by on-farm systems. In answer to the question, here is a brief summary of the situation, including the most recent developments.  

Milk component sensors have not yet been approved by ICAR

Worldwide, all of the production data used to publish lactations and calculate genetic evaluations comes from milk recording agencies that are members of ICAR, the International Committee for Animal Recording. ICAR is responsible for approving milk meters used to measure milk yields. ICAR has also developed guidelines for the approval of on-farm electronic sensors, which measure, among other things, milk components and SCC.

Most robotic milking systems have received ICAR certification for measuring milk yields. Milk component sensors, however, have not yet been approved by ICAR. These devices were designed to provide data for herd management purposes and are described as milk component Indicators.

No country uses data from component sensors for genetic evaluations

The Netherlands, for example, continues to require milk sampling for all herds, despite the fact that 88 per cent of the country’s herds are enrolled on a milk recording program and over 20 per cent of its herds are milked with an AMS. The Netherlands has clearly established that AMS data cannot be used to replace milk recording data.

The United States initiates the use of AMS-generated component data

A breakthrough in the use of such data was initiated last year by Holstein Association USA. The national Association introduced its AMR (Automated Milk Records) service, which collects production data from robotic milking systems, specifically, cumulative lactation data for milk, fat and protein. The information generated by this service is used solely for the purpose of publishing lactation records on pedigrees. Each lactation is clearly identified with the AMR code, and lactations bearing this code cannot be used for genetic evaluations or for any Holstein Association USA recognition programs. 

Yes, Valacta retrieves data from automated milking systems

For the past 12 years now, Valacta has been able to retrieve data from milking systems electronically, using the Ori-Automate software (and its earlier version, Trans-D), which is compatible with all brands of milking systems.

The range of data that can be retrieved depends on how the manufacturer programs the software.

Some data can be retrieved from one brand of milking system but not from others. Most of the data required for milk recording can be retrieved from all systems.

A new electronic milk recording service is in the works

Over the past year, Valacta has been working on developing the IT aspects of an electronic milk recording service offering. The service will include the option of using component results generated by sensors integrated in some types of milking systems. Modifications have been made to the national database to indicate whether the component results come from an accredited laboratory or an on-farm system. This will allow the data to be used appropriately for herd management reports, genetic evaluations and awards.

A Canadian strategy under development

The Canadian Dairy Network’s Industry Standards Committee held its first meeting of the year in January. The main item on the agenda was developing standards for the publication of lactation records based on milk weights collected electronically, without a farm visit.

It was proposed that a publishable lactation record be restricted to including only information related to milk production, that is, yields in kg, BCAs and general information such as calving date, age of the animal and parity. This proposal would make it easier to implement an electronic milk recording service that would not require a milk analysis by a laboratory, as is currently the case. 

The Committee also discussed the possibility of including fat and protein results provided by on-farm AMS sensors in the calculations for lactation records. But data from on-farm sensors will only be considered if the sensors are ICAR-certified, consistent with the Committee’s current guidelines for on-farm component sensors. The Committee will continue to look for studies that could justify the use of these data based on publication and/or genetic assessment objectives.

Further details from this meeting are available in the Summary of the Standards Committee Meeting of January 2019 (in french only).

So it’s imminent?

Developing new standards and processes for data transfer for an electronic milk recording service is a priority for the Canadian dairy industry. Until on-farm sensors are approved by ICAR, milk recording agencies  plan, in the near future, to collect milk component and SCC values from sensors for herd management purposes, as was originally intended. This new electronic milk recording service will encourage herd owners equipped with milking software to enroll on milk recording so that they can contribute to the national database for genetic evaluations.