The decision to install their first Lely Astronaut robot in March 2009 required a reduction from 100 to 70 cows. However the increased number of milkings and ability to focus on cow nutrition led to overall production increasing. In November 2020 a second robot was installed and the Annandales started breeding their own replacements to build numbers up. The 90 cow Holstein Friesian herd supplies Muller with yields now averaging 11,852kg.
“The second robot really helped us drive towards those higher outputs,” says Steve. “We are continuing to work towards increasing milk solids, and thanks to a new silage clamp, we are driving more milk from forage.
“Getting the diet right plays a huge role in getting the most out of the cows,” he continues. “As we are now able to tailor the ration, feed can be optimised to suit each cow and her needs. The switch from ‘whole herd’ to ‘individual cow’ thinking has helped us get the best from each animal.”
The robots provide regular reports of cow performance and behaviour which can indicate any emerging problems. This provides opportunity to focus on any cows not performing as well, he adds. “By boosting the performance of lower performing individuals, we have been able to lift the performance of the herd as a whole.”
Steve began working with ForFarmers robotic milking specialist Clive Slawson in August 2012 to ensure that the cow’s health and nutrition was supporting their aim of enhanced health and higher margins. The herd’s diet is palm fat and soya free and based on grass and maize silage with a forage balancing blend to feed for maintenance plus 27 litres.
In the robot they receive dairy MELK nuts, a liquid feed, Microbalance Keto Energy as well as Microbalance Mega Buff to buffer the acidity in the rumen. Clive explains that the addition of Lintec two years ago has helped support fertility and health, while bringing additional benefits of reduced methane production.
“In robotic milking systems, getting the diet right is crucial to success,” says Clive. “If any part of the ration is not balanced, then the cows will vote with their feet and choose not to go to the robots.”