With this is in mind, Teagasc embarked on a three-year EU-funded study of automatic or robotic milking at its livestock systems research centre in Moorepark, Fermoy.
The importance of automatic milking (AM) in Ireland will be dictated by the degree to which it can be integrated into a grass-based milk production system.
The economic viability of AM will determine how widely the technology will be adopted and reducing energy costs will be a very significant part of this work.
As part of our study, we hope to include feedback from analysis of commercial farms in Ireland that are operating robotic milking systems.
This analysis will include, for example, milk production data from the robot; energy and water usage; grass measurement data and economic data, such as profit monitor data.
This will allow benchmarking of production costs including energy costs from commercial automatic milking systems.
Across Europe, dairy farmers are adopting AM at an accelerating rate for reasons such as improvement in lifestyle, a reduction in manual labour, difficulties attracting skilled labour and increased profitability based on higher milk production and lower labour costs.
However, while indoor feeding systems have been well adapted to AM, cow grazing systems have not.
So, if AM is to become a realistic alternative to conventional manual milking in grass-based milk production systems like Ireland, the practical challenges of integrating AM and grazing must be researched.
This issue is crucially important as AM could represent an important advancement in precision dairy farming.
AM has the potential to improve automatic data collection, providing herd managers with data that will enable them to make effective management decisions.