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The need to reduce labour demand and the increasing size of herds have led - in the last years - to develop specific automated solutions for feeding animals in dairy farms. Currently there are more than 1250 automatic feeding systems (AFS) used worldwide, but there is a lack of information about both their energy requirements and management costs. The primary aim of the present study was to measure the electric energy consumption of an AFS installed in a dairy farm of Northern Italy under practical conditions. The secondary aim was to calculate, using the classic ASABE approach, the costs for preparing and distributing a total mixed ration (TMR) with the same AFS in comparison with the conventional feeding system (CFS) (tractor + TMR wagon) previously adopted by the farm. The average energy consumption of AFS over the experimental period (two months) was 40.2±2.3 kWh per day, 2.11±0.07 kWh per ton of TMR distributed and 29.6 kWh ∙ cow–1 per year. Energy consumptions and labour were reduced respectively of 97% and 79% passing from a CFS (tractor + TMR wagon) to an AFS, contributing to reduce the daily cost for feeding TMR up to 33%. These results highlighting that AFS can represent an interesting option to improve competitiveness of dairy farms.
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