Bristol bridge

February 2022

Learning more about Robots

Afbeelding: Webinar screenshot Chad - Josies blog

At the start of February we hosted a robotic milking webinar. We were lucky enough to have a guest speaker Chad Folsom from Canada who talked us through his own experience of making the transition from milking in a rotary parlor to installing 10 Lely A5 robots. During the evening, we had nearly 100 attendees tuned into the webinar.

Chad milks 500 cows through the robots and due to the success he has now ordered two more robots. Chad was a great speaker and expressed the importance of trusting the process, cows and robots. Furthermore, he provided top tips including how cows should not be herded or chased. He also said you shouldn’t be afraid to walk away and let the cows get used to their new surrounds and new system, because robots aren’t designed to be watched.

It was interesting to listen how Chad weighed up the benefits and costs of each system, instead of jumping straight into robots. It was fascinating to hear about Chad's research tour across Canada which gave him the knowledge and key learnings of robotic milking system. After listening to the webinar I think one of the most beneficial aspects to robotic milking that I learn about is precision feeding, because it enables tailored alterations to specific cows. This level of detail helps you to maximise milk yields and gain a significant amount of data.

Promoting our robotic products and services

For this webinar we decided to create some goody bags which included some robotic literature and merchandise. Back in December, I coordinated some branded lorry keyrings and it was really nice to see these in person and include them in the bags. I packed and posted the goody bags which were sent out to the webinar attendees.

Dual calling with Ruminant Specialist Mark Thornton

During February, I headed out with Mark Thornton who is a Ruminant Specialists and covers Cheshire, Liverpool and as far North as Yorkshire. Our first customer visit was to a robotic dairy farm in Cheshire which is solely operated by three Lely robots. In addition, they make use of smart automatic feeding through the installation of two Lely Vectors, this leads to frequent feeding which stimulates fodder ingestion resulting in increased fertility and production.

I also learnt that the pH value of the rumen is maintained by eating numerous times a day, allowing cows to make greater use of the diet they ingest. Cows become more active visiting the milking robot more frequently and this often results in a higher milk output.

What I think is quite incredible about the Vector is that it can sense when it is time for a new feeding round through measuring the height of a specific section to determine when the ration needs to be supplemented, this means the herd isn’t being underfed or overfed. They also have a Lely discovery collector which vacuums the manure rather than it being scraped away. This reduces the build-up of manure which increases the cleanliness of the cow’s hooves as well as the floor buildings. Overall the benefits are better cow health and wellbeing. It was eye-opening to see such an efficient dairy setup.

Vector in action

Making the move to robots

Mark and I then visited the Riverdane herd. They have some of the world's most famous Holstein show cows. Mark and Sue Nutsford have achieved remarkable success with their Riverdane Holsteins which is based in Middlewich, Cheshire alongside Mark’s embryo transfer business.

They are currently in the transition process of moving from milking in a 12 a side herringbone parlour to milking with two Lely robots. It was great to see the potential layout of where the new robots will be positioned in relation to the cubicle shed. The new building is currently under construction so I am looking forward to heading back in a few months time to see the finished set-up and find out how the cows have adjusted to robotic milking.

I hope the process is as smooth sailing as it can be for them. Hopefully the installation of the robots will allow Mark flexibility for not only himself but also the cows, whilst at the same time producing high quality milk.

Out on farm

Plans for March

I am looking forward to March as I have a few exciting days out lined up in my diary. After writing an article on transition diets for goats over the Christmas period I am hoping to go dual-calling with one of our Specialists in the South West and visits some more farms. This will help me put into practice the technical information I learnt when researching the key factors to consider when formulating goat diets.

It was great to be part of a successful robotic webinar and I look forward to our second one in early March. For this event we will be joined by a Brian O'Riordan who farms in County Cork in Northern Ireland. Brian will be speaking on how he operates an intensive grazing system through the use of robots and what makes it successful. I’m looking forward to tuning in and listening to a different farmers' perspective on robots.

Afbeelding: Josie signature 2