Just 10 minutes from the buzzing farming community of Warragul in the dairy dominated region of Gippsland Victoria, Daryl and Trudy Hammond along with part-time worker Stuart and children Lilly (18), Adele (16) and Flynn (14) milk 450 Friesian and Friesian Cross cows on a 100% pasture based operation, with the help of 6 extremely reliable and well cared for Lely Astronaut A4 milking robots.

Work life balance

With 186 effective hectares which has been in Trudy’s family for around 50 years, plus another  purchase of a 100 hectare run-off just 10 minutes away from the home farm, this impressive pasture based dairy unit is not only incredibly productive, it’s the pinnacle of efficiency - giving new meaning to work-life balance and on-farm efficiencies, whilst never sacrificing their herds’ health.

Having been in the farming business for 25 years, Daryl knows a thing or two about milking cows, and also a thing-or-two about running a successful and profitable business, which will one day be a pleasure for him and wife Trudy to pass onto their children. Previously milking on a 20 double-up Herringbone platform - that was fast coming to the end of its lifespan the mentally and physically drained pair decided that cupping cows for around 7-8 hours every day was not their future in dairying, but robotics were.

New way of milking

Introducing a new way of milking with 6 Lely Astronaut A4’s on a pasture-based system in December 2014 the Hammond’s have never looked back, saying “we couldn’t keep up with the way we were farming and robots were completely cost comparable to any other system. “I was grumpy, wired and completely over it. I’m a lot more relaxed now. Robots are far more reliable than staff”. 

Decision to install Lely Astronaut

The decision to install 6 “ripping” Lely Astronaut A4 robots was an easy decision for Daryl. Inspired by the technology, the quality of the product, labour savings and of course the additional time he and Trudy would gain to do the things they love with their three teenage kids; such as travelling to Canada for 3 weeks of skiing. “The product had made major leaps and bounds from the A3 to the A4. As a family unit we could run the farm with less staff. Plus from a cost point of view, we could get rid of 2.5 labour units with robotics over that of a rotary system. Robots provide balance to our lives and have definitely brought Trudy and I closer together. We’re not at the coal-face anymore. It’s all about the future and what we’re doing as a family and a business”. 

Transition from Herringbone to AMS

With the guidance of Lely Center in Gippsland, Daryl and Trudy transitioned their herd by walking them through open robots after they were milked in the old Herringbone system to get used to the look and feel of the robot stalls. Then it was as Daryl puts it - “plug and play. Once the cows found the feed in the robot in the training programme they were good to go. It was actually a very easy transition. We looked at 9 Lely farms and learnt from their experiences, which was invaluable”. 

Grazing system

Utilising a 3-way pasture management system, the Lely ABC grazing system, cows alternate between 3 races within a 24 hour period, reducing the pressure on pasture, and providing more recovery time for paddocks between grazing. Daryl also offers his herd an incentive of meal being fed through 6 Lely Cosmix S concentrate feeders, ensuring each cow receives the portion of concentrate they need after each milking. This encourages cows to be milked more often and then move onto a new pasture allocation.

In addition to this ABC grazing system, Daryl has a pre-existing feed pad which is used when needed to on either hot and cold days to encourage cows to move. Plus his new run-off will include around 15-20ha of chicory crops in which cows will have access to for around 6 hours each night. “The fact that you have more time to manage your pasture makes it a better system. It sounds simple and it really is. It works really well”. 

Happy cows and happy farmers

Lely believes farmers should spend the majority of their time with their herd, taking care of their cows. Daryl and Trudy agree with Trudy saying “they’re just happy cows and we’re just happy farmers because of robots”. Their old Herringbone system had milk metering, but Lely’s T4C system took it to the next level and also gave the pair more time to sit down and monitor data and manage their business to a more strategic level, thanks to the data coming from the robots. 

Clear and useful information on cow’s health and production

With the Lely Astronaut robotic milking system optimising the Lely T4C technology, the only dedicated farm management system for robotic milking, Daryl can rest assured his herd is being managed efficiently. Saying you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to use the system, Daryl is provided all the data he needs, through the systems many sensors including; cow weight, rumination minutes, cow activity, fat/protein indicators, milk production, feed intake, milking times and number of visiting to the robot each day – to list a few.

The system analyses and presents only clear and useful information, providing more control and freedom when it comes to managing a herd efficiently. “You can sit on the motorbike and look at the T4C app on your phone and find out exactly what each cow has been up to”. “Once all the cows are trained through the robots you never really see them again – it’s like they’re at a resort. You can just watch T4C for health issues; such as mastitis, in their first 30 days of milking and if there is a problem you can rest assured you’ll be alerted of it. With all the bells and whistles on each robot, if you know what you’re doing it’s an amazing tool.” With less lameness, a better in-calf rate and vet bills which have been halved the Hammond family have also experienced a 10-20% increase in milk production, with their herd averaging between 500-550KgMS.

For a  businessman who’s always thinking ahead and pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a farmer, Daryl is meticulous about how he operates his dairy. Monitoring each and every single cow to ensure he can get the most out of them, and only intervening when cows need attention, Daryl is driven to succeed in his business. Not only to be able to enjoy time away from the farm with his family, but to be able to future proof the business for his children.

With only half an additional labour unit and production soaring with less cows and an exceptional service provided by Lely Center in Gippsland, the decision to convert to robots was the right one. “Robots give you a new lease on life – if you look after them, they look after you. Lely Center in Gippsland installed all the electrics and they’re so great to work with. What they say, is what they’ll do. Now I might as well go back to bed and catch up on the 20 years of sleep I missed”. 

Why Lely?

Farmers all over the world make choices about how they set up and run their farms. Every day, we help them make the best choices for themselves and their farms. We do this by providing advice and innovative solutions that contribute to efficient farm management. For sustainable milk and meat production. Present and future.