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Specialist nutrition expertise gets robotic milkers running smoothly


Robotic milkers have surged in popularity in recent years, now installed in 10% of UK dairy farms. With their potential to reduce labour costs and improve herd performance and welfare, it’s easy to see why sales are rising. One Welsh dairy farmer made the switch last summer for all the above reasons, but with a few unexpected bumps in the road…

Farmer Tomos Adams milks 60 pedigree Holstein Friesians on Llanfrynach Farm in Cowbridge, South Wales on a mixed farm. The year-round calving herd is fed 0.3kg of Maximum Match 18 concentrate per litre of milk produced through the robot, along with homegrown grass and maize silage as a TMR at the feed barrier.

Tomos aims to put good quality forage in front of the cows to drive production, using a mix of a two-cut and multi-cut silage systems. The newer leys on the farm are a mixture of Italians and perennials, as well as eight acres of Lucerne to help with protein.  

Tomos Adams

Transitioning to robots

Tomos and his father David relocated their business to Cowbridge in March last year after the land they farmed was sold to a developer. As part of their new setup, they decided to install a robotic milker to help them to better manage the herd. “My father and I father run the dairy herd, and we wanted to use this opportunity to improve our setup,” explains Tomos. “I had seen robots working several times and believe they can milk cows more efficiently than in a milking parlour.”

Prior to the move, their herd was being milked twice daily and fed 0.5kg of concentrate per kg of milk produced with an average yield of 7,500L a year. Soon after moving onto the robot, milk yield improved with promising results initially. 

An issue arised

“The cows did really well for the first six months, but we started to see that they struggled to hit peak yield after they calved down,” he continues. “We were down to about 28L/cow at 170 days in milk and only getting about 2.8 milkings/day/cow – we just weren’t getting enough feed into them and couldn’t work out why. We tried to go to the manufacturer for support, but they didn’t have the nutrition expertise we needed.”

Cows at Llanfrynach Farm

Nutritional expertise

ForFarmers account manager Ed Jones suggested that Tomos speak to his colleague Clive Slawson, who specialises in robotic milking diets, to take a look at the robot’s setup and advise him on how to make adjustments. 

“Clive logged into the system remotely to see what was going on. I talked things through with him on a call; we discussed the changes that needed to be made and Clive was able to implement them for us. Now, instead of the robot holding them back, the cows are actually picking up as they should be after calving and are now yielding 37L/day at 155 days in milk.”

Robotic results

Since moving onto the robots, the Llanfrynach herd performance has increased substantially with cows now yielding 11,500L – 4,000 litres more than when they were being milked twice a day - and requiring only 0.32kg of concentrate per kilo of milk.

“Clive’s expertise with the robotic milkers was really valuable to us, as he was able to help us get the right amount of feed into the cows to allow them to perform as they should,” says Tomos. “It’s all about marrying the robot settings with the farm system to get the right results. Ed knows our individual set up and the cows, but he was also able to call on the robotic expertise of Clive to give us the best advice.”

He concludes, “We had a whole herd foot trim the other week, and the foot trimmer said that our diet must be absolutely spot on because the cows’ feet are in such good condition. I am taking that as a good sign that things are working!”

Cow milking via a robot

For more information

For more information about our range of robotic milking compounds or for advice on transitioning or improving your efficiency with robots please speak to your local ForFarmers Account Manager or send us an online enquiry:
 

Contact a Robotic Milking Specialist