They introduced robots seven years ago and now run two herds – 240 milked robotically and 340 through a traditional parlour. The robotic set up is split into two groups of 120 cows each milked by two Lely Astronauts A4s.
Jack explains that the farm’s highest yielding cows were generally put in the robotic herd. “It works really well for us having the two herds. We enjoy both ways of working so we are in no rush or have any immediate plans to use robots across the whole herd.”
In 2021 yields were averaging 9,000 litres/day in the robotic herd which was 2,250 litres/robot. Although already significantly higher than the UK average of 1,600 litres/day ForFarmers Michael Duncan and Martin Helliwell believed there was potential to increase this further and set a target of 2,500 litres/ robot/day which they have since achieved.
They used the ForFarmers Robotic Analysis Programme (RAP) to analyse the Astronaut’s data and this highlighted that some animals were returning to the robots four or five times giving low volumes in the additional visits.
“With 60 cows per robot, time in the robot is the limiting factor,” says Michael. “Taking time in the robot away from later lactation cows and giving it to the freshly calved end of the herd enabled those cows to give an extra 5 to 6 litres in their first three months while the others continued to produce the same amount.” The cows’ diet is free of soya and palm products, but has not fundamentally changed in that time, although the team can now target additional cake to those that needed it, he added.
“Same robots, same diet, but reallocating time in the robots has made all the difference.”