Investigation Into Flavour Enhancer in Concentrates Fed at the Camden AMS Dairy

By hammering down cow waiting time, feed flavour enhancer could lead both to greater forage appeal and speed up automatic milking system efficiency, according to Tori Scott, University of Sydney, who conducted a short pilot study.
calendar icon 26 March 2013
clock icon 5 minute read

In late 2011, a short pilot investigation looking at the effect of adding flavour enhancer into pelleted concentrate fed at the dairy (both in automatic feeders and at milking) was conducted at the Camden AMS research farm to determine whether flavour enhancer may be able to reduce pre-milking waiting times at the dairy. While flavour enhancer doesn't change the nutritive value of the concentrate, it does heighten the flavour and thus increase the appeal of the feed. A greater 'appeal' could increase the value of feed as an incentive, and therefore encourage greater cow traffic in AMS.

In pasture-based voluntary AMS, it is important to be able to generate and maintain acceptable levels of cow traffic. Through increasing the cow traffic across the farm, the farmer will have greater opportunities to draft cows for milking when they return from pasture. This in turn could increase the Milking Frequency (MF; number of milkings per cow per day) and have the potential to increase milk yield.

From research conducted previously by FutureDairy, it was found that feeding a small quantity of concentrate (approx. 300g per cow per visit) at milking on a Robotic Rotary (RR) significantly reduced the time cows spent in the pre-milking waiting yard. It is beneficial to minimise the time cows spend in the concrete pre-milking waiting yard from a production, system efficiency and animal welfare viewpoint.

Feedpad at the AMS site in Camden

The investigation ran for one month. Cows were fed their usual PLAIN pelleted concentrate on the RR and in a post-milking feeding area within the dairy (with automatic feeders) with cow traffic data collected for 10 days. The new Fruit Bud flavoured pellets were then added to the silos. Data collection ceased for 14 days (to ensure that the ENHANCED pellets were being delivered through both silos and to allow the cows sufficient time to adjust to the new flavoured pellets (prior to a 14 day data collection period with ENHANCED pellets.

From the cow traffic data, we were able to determine how long each cow spent in the pre-milking waiting area, the post-milking feeding area, and outside the dairy (assumed to be predominantly at pasture).

The pre-milking waiting time (WT) was reduced by 20 minutes when flavour enhancer was used, with an average waiting time of 46 minutes per milking (Figure 1). While this result was not statistically significant, a saving of 20 minutes per milking could lead to greater savings when considering the number of times cows are milked per day.

The ENHANCED pellets had the strongest impact on multiparous cows, and cows of low-medium yield (<23L/day), reducing the time these cows spent in the pre-milking waiting area significantly more than heifers and high yielding cows. However, heifers and high yielding cows were found to have the shortest pre-milking waiting times both with and without flavour enhancer.


Figure 1. The average time spent in the pre-milking waiting area (in minutes) for the plain and flavour enhanced concentrate pellet treatments

It was found that the time spent in the post-milking feeding area (FT) was increased when flavour enhancer was fed in automatic feeding stations. While this increase was statistically significant, it was only a difference of 1.5 minutes per milking and therefore unlikely to have a large impact on the daily time spent in the dairy itself. Regardless of the pellet fed, there was no difference in the total quantity of pellet consumed.

Therefore we suspect that the extra time spent in the post-milking area could be due to cows spending more time thoroughly cleaning out the feed bin, or perhaps loitering around waiting for any additional chances to consume the „tastier? ENHANCED pellets.

When fed ENHANCED pellets, cows returned (RT) to the dairy 110 minutes faster than when PLAIN pellets were fed. It was also interesting to note that heifers and high yielding cows had shorter return times than multiparous and mid-low yielding cows.

Early lactation cows (
To give an indication of the average milking interval (time between two consecutive milkings), the average WT, FT and RT were summed for the PLAIN and ENHANCED traffic (Figure 2). From this summary, it appears that during the ENHANCED period, cows had an overall average milking interval more than 2hrs shorter than in the PLAIN period.

Figure 2. A comparison of the average waiting time, feeding time and return time between treatments.

While analysis is still ongoing, results thus far appear to demonstrate a benefit of using flavour enhanced pellets at the dairy in encouraging greater cow traffic.

A reduction in time spent in the dairy could allow for increased opportunity for pasture grazing, ruminating and resting. An overall reduction in milking interval of more than 2hrs also indicates that the use of flavour enhancer could lead to more frequent milkings and therefore create a potential for increased milk production. It may also be possible to use flavour enhancer to target the slower trafficking cows, such as lower yielding and multiparous cows, to increase their traffic without detrimental effects on cows with faster traffic.

However, this investigation was not able to determine whether these positive effects of flavour enhancer are due to the cows enjoying the novelty of Fruit Bud flavoured pellets, or simply a novelty effect that would diminish over time. Further work in this area will be necessary to evaluate the long-term effects of flavour enhancer, and allow us to calculate the cost-benefit of feeding flavour enhancer in pasture-based AMS.

Further Reading

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March 2013

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