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Robert Matson

Position/Title: M.Sc. (Thesis) Candidate
Office: ANNU 218

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I am a M.Sc. Candidate under the supervision of Trevor DeVries. My research focuses on optimizing nutrition, housing and management on robotic dairy farms in Canada. Robotic milking allows dairy farmers to milk their cows automatically by removing the need for labour to attach milking units. In this system, a farmer cuts down on their milking labour cost and gains valuable insight into cow health and production through technology onboard the robotic milking unit. The technology has been widely adopted in Canada with estimates that ~10% of Canadian dairy farms (over 1 000 farms) are currently milking with robots.    

We will be surveying ~400 robotic dairy farms across Canada to understand housing, reproduction and management practices of these farms. At each of these farms, we will also collect information on the feed cost and a complete breakdown of the diet. We will then pair this information with both milk test data (Valacta and CanWest DHI) and data collected by the robotic milker to draw conclusions about how farm efficiency can be increased.

We also plan to use the milk test data to help inform analysis towards health aspects relating to the dairy industry and to profile the farms. A measure of herd lameness will also be taken from 80 farms in Ontario. Locomotion scoring (how a cow walks and her mechanics) allows us to provide a welfare measure for cows that are compromised due to a management practice or injury through the locomotion score of a cow.  All of this information together will help to inform our analysis. 

My past education was at the University of Ottawa where I studied Biochemistry. I decided to pursue a master’s research at the University of Guelph due to my strong tie to the dairy industry (Dairy at Guelph). My family owned a 70-cow dairy farm, and many of my family friends have now implemented the robotic milking technology. Dairy Farmers also fund the project through the Dairy Farmers of Canada with collaboration from the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Calgary. I am eager to provide valuable findings that aim to increase farm efficiency and improve nutrition for these robotic dairy farms.