Technology adoption in New Zealand pastoral-based system: A study of Automatic Milking System (AMS) : A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Lincoln University
New Zealand dairy farming is a primary industry suppling 3% of the world’s milk. One of the primary tasks in traditional herringbone and rotary milking systems is to milk the cows. As milking can occur up to three times a day, this is a very labour-intensive task. In pastoral-based farming systems, this task accounts for up to 33% of the total labour input. Milking often occurs outside traditional work hours which makes it difficult to attract and retain workers. The Automatic Milking System (AMS) almost eliminates the labour associated with traditional milking systems. While this system has been widely used in European countries where the dairy cows are kept indoors, there has been a much lower rate of adoption in countries like New Zealand practicing pastoral-based systems. This study investigates the characteristics of the farmers who have and have not adopted AMS in New Zealand pastoral-based dairy farms and the factors which facilitate or hinder AMS adoption. This study included two stages of interviews. Three farmers who had adopted AMS participated in the first interview. The results from this stage, along with a review of the existing literature, were used to develop the second stage interviews. This second stage used the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). A further seven farmers who had adopted AMS and 13 who had not adopted AMS participated in the second interview. The results showed that adoption is not necessarily linked to high levels of education. The interviewed farmers, however, did have long-term experience in dairying. Most had no identified successor. Factors related to the farm (location, production level and system, and cow breed) were found to have little or no influence on AMS adoption. The animal health and welfare factors that had the greatest influence on AMS adopters and the highest potential for non-adopters were better animal welfare, more relaxed cows, treating cows as individuals, enabling a farmer to make better decisions about individual dairy cows, and reducing rates of lameness. The social factors that had an influence were having a new experience and challenges, providing a more relaxed operation system, providing a better lifestyle, improved work conditions, and flexible work hours. In terms of who influenced the decision to adopt AMS, the interviews revealed that only publicity materials provided by AMS suppliers were found to have an influence on farmers’ decisions to install this system. While the AMS requires changes to farm layout, infrastructure, grazing systems, 24/7 monitoring, skilled labour, and support from AMS suppliers, the farmers did not find it difficult to institute these changes or meet these requirements. The farmers who had not adopted AMS had similar levels of education as those who had adopted AMS. Six had possibly and definitely identified a successor. While these farmers had positive attitudes towards AMS’ social and animal health and welfare benefits, they were not convinced that the system would provide greater economic benefits. They were not influenced by others’ opinions on AMS adoption, stating that they only considered it after reading printed and online articles. Despite believing that AMS provides social and animal health and welfare benefits, these farmers believe that it is complex to install, it has high capital costs, and requires major changes in the farm layout and operation system. Farmers who had adopted AMS wanted a better lifestyle and were interested in improving animal health and welfare. They saw AMS as a way to work with more flexible working days and hours. After installation, they confirmed that AMS improves animal health and welfare and does not prevent them from observing the cows or spotting problems. They also noted that the improved profits and financial returns and reduced milking shed operation and maintenance costs do not necessarily outweigh AMS’ high capital costs. While these economic factors, including the high capital cost, were not prohibitive for them, this was not the case for the farmers who had not adopted AMS. In this study, AMS farmers found AMS as an information-intensive technology complex to install. It took one of them almost two years to learn the system. The information-intensive technologies have a lower adoption rate as compared to embodied technologies. Similar to this study, non-AMS farmers found that it is complex to install AMS and this was one of the barriers to AMS non-adopters.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsautomatic milking systems; milking machines; milking robots; dairy farming; technology adoption; dairy farm technology; pastoral farming; New Zealand dairy farming; theory of planned behaviour; animal health; animal welfare; dairying; dairy farm systems
Fields of Research300208 Farm management, rural management and agribusiness; 460205 Intelligent robotics; 300306 Animal welfare; 400701 Assistive robots and technology
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