Robotic milking supports people and animal health and wellbeing

An Environmental management case study done by Dairy Australia

Jan. 2, 2024

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We would like to share an environmental management case study published by Dairy Australia conducted at the farm of the Clarks in Mt Gambier South Australia.

Summary of the case study:

  • With a strong focus on the people and the animals in their business, the Clarks wanted to change their milking system so that they could improve the sustainability of their people while ensuring the ongoing growth of their business.
  • They invested in a robotic dairy system that has allowed them to increase their herd size, spend more time on other aspects and their families.
  • The upgraded system has allowed them to increase their cow data, which has resulted in the Clarks making further improvements to their business. 

“There are different ways of doing things. We wanted a way to milk the cows where we didn’t have to both be there at the same time. And we have achieved this.” Sam Clark, Fiander-Moor

We would love to share some issues, changes and benefits the Clark family experienced and have gone through in the last year. Also you can download further down the page the full case study published by Dairy Australia. 

Issues

  • When Josh and Sam came back to work full-time on the farm, they were milking 370 cows in a 20-unit swing over herringbone dairy. They were spending 11 hours a day milking cows. This was not sustainable for the cows or the people.
  • Increasing the herd size wasn’t possible with the milking system.
  • The extra time spent milking was putting a strain on their physical health and it was stressful trying to run everything else efficiently.

Changes made

  • In 2018, six Lely A5 robotic milking units were installed. 
  • The decision to invest in robots was based on the longterm sustainability of the key people in the business – Josh and Sam. The robots offered a way to milk the cows effectively while removing much of the physical stress associated with the previous milking system.
  • The pasture system was changed to a three-way grazing system to allow for the inclusion of the robotic milking system. The cows are milked on a ‘voluntary’ basis, which means they choose when they are milked.

Benefits

  • Great benefit to the physical health of Sam, Josh and their employees.
  • Condition of the herd’s feet and legs has improved due to less time standing on concrete and not being moved to the dairy as part a large mob.
  • Pasture movement has improved as the team has more time available to manage other key aspects of the farm.

The Future and learnings

  • The Clarks are looking to install two more robots (note Lely: these robots are installed already in 2023). This will ensure robots are run more effectively for the herd size. It will also help with the heifers that come into the herd and generally increase milk production efficiency.
  • Realistic expectations mean the change is more likely to be successful. The Clarks were realistic about their future labour needs with robots. They knew they wouldn’t be ‘set and forget.’
  • When making a big decision, try to look 10-20 years ahead.

 

Download the full case study here

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Credits to Dairy Australia for the case study. 

The content of this publication including any statements regarding future matters (such as the performance of the dairy industry or initiatives of Dairy Australia) is based on information available to Dairy Australia at the time of preparation. Dairy Australia does not guarantee that the content is free from errors or omissions and accepts no liability for your use of or reliance on this document. Furthermore, the information has not been prepared with your specific circumstances in mind and may not be current after the date of publication. Accordingly, you should always make your own enquiry and obtain professional advice before using or relying on the information provided in this publication. © Dairy Australia Limited 2023. All rights reserved.

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