Arjan van Adrichem started milking his cows with two Lely Astronaut robots ten years ago and slowly they grew to four robot in the old dairy. In 2014, they bought their neighbors farm which was all bush, and then they cleared that over a period of four to five years and built a new dairy with seven robots.

Milking with Lely Astronaut

The Adrichem farm is currently milking 500 cows with seven Astronaut A3 Next robots. According to Adrichem “Astronaut A3 robots are very robust. They trained around 130 to 150 heifers in a season just before they calved and they performed really well”. 

Grazing system

Adrichem is currently doing three way grazing (ABC) which he is thinking of upgrading to four-way grazing, as all of their paddocks are 2 hectares in size which is good for 300 to 400 cows. Now they have increased the herd size to 500 cows and have gone to half day feed per paddock, but that’s also getting too small.

Happier cows

Adrichem's cows are much happier now because they get milked more often. According to Arjan “if you try and get 35 or 40 litres out of a cow on a rotary then she has to do 17-18 litres a visit whereas our cows are doing that and getting milked three or four times a day so they get less pressure on their udders and they get a lot less mastitis because of that.” 

Information from T4C

The most important KPIs for Adrichem is milk production, number of milking per day and failures. He also checks the sick cow list to make sure none of his cows have low rumination, are losing weight or have milk fever. “ When you test the whole herd average they don't look so bad but when you get the figures on every single cow you soon realize that breeding with every cow is not a good option", he says. A bad cow that looks good will only do 3 or 4,000 litres a year whereas a good cow will do 7,000 to nearly double what that bad cow does. But because we have all the information, we know what is a good cow and what is a bad cow so we don't end up with a lot of those cows. We get rid of them fairly quickly.”

Return on investment

Adrichem is miles ahead of his friends who are dairy farming using conventional milking systems as he doesn’t have to pay the labour cost. “My friends don't think robotics will work because they think that I'm out 24 hours a day doing maintenance on the robots. I do get the odd phone call but it's usually nothing important. They think they have to be a technician to be able to fix the robots but they've got that very wrong."

"They're milking eight hours a day in a dairy and if I have to fix the robot for even half an hour a day I'm still miles in front of where they would be. And because I don't have to have an employee like they do, my cost of production is way better than anyone else, just because that labor cost is crazy. The average in Australia I think is 150 cows per full-time equivalent so we've got 500 cows and I'm doing it myself through the majority of the year.”

Conventional v/s automatic milking system

Adrichem has been measuring the costing since they were milking with a conventional milking system, and according to him there is not much cost difference between the two systems. “The costing of the robots versus conventional farming is much the same to be honest. I think that electricity use we got it meted on farm when we had the rotary and we got it meted when we had the robotics, and the power consumption, the actual kilowatts used was nearly identical per cow. But in a rotary it peaks and troughs obviously when you start in the morning when you start at night."

"With the robotics it's very linear and that's why we've got the solar system put in now which has brought our electricity costs right back because this system makes the power all day and we're consuming that power all day. In regards to water, in a conventional dairy we used twenty to thirty thousand litres of water a day for hosing out and in the new dairy with the robotics we use maybe three thousand litres a day so our water consumption is cut right back. I can keep the lifestyle I've got now, getting up at 6:00 in the morning and finishing at 4:00 in the afternoon. You can maintain that for a long long time, however, if you have to get up at 2:00 in the morning and finish at 6:00 at night it's just a matter of time before you burn out or you don't do your job well anymore.” says Arjan van Ardichem.

Pasture-based Automatic Milking System - Arjan Van Adrichem (English / Australia)

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