TUMBA, Sweden ― Innovative management is helping to keep cows productive in Swedish herds.

Producer Andreas Andersson uses robotic milking stations, or Voluntary Milking System, to gather information about the cows, which assists in health management.

For instance, the “eye” on the Voluntary Milking System collects information from milk samples and then displays the information on a monitor. Andersson pays particular attention to the somatic cell counts, indicative of the animals’ health status.

Being proactive when a cow shows elevated somatic cell counts, and providing the right management, is one of the ways Andersson improves the cows’ welfare. He also thinks it’s important that the cows can walk around in the free-stall barn, with several options for spending their time, including eating, lying down, being milked at a robotic station, or getting a “back rub” with a swinging brush.

Fellow producer Patrik Boner has taken it a step further with a Herd Navigator program, which allows him to access the risk certain animals have for mastitis, ketosis and other health problems.

For instance, the amount of BHB or beta-hydroxybutyrate showing up in milk samples is indicative of ketosis risk. If a cow shows elevated levels, putting her at high risk, Boner can treat her with propylene glycol. Similarly, if the samples show high levels of an enzyme known as LDH or lactate dehydrogenase, it is indicative of increased risk for mastitis. He can give those cows more “permissions” to stop at one of the robotic milking stations as a way to treat mastitis with more frequent milkout.  

These are some of the things the Swedish producers are doing to keep productive cows in the herd longer.