Find out how the Astronaut A5s introduced at Alderstone Farm have made major improvement to herd performance and efficiency.
Andrew Hastle (pictured above) farms a 300-cow pedigree Jersey herd in partnership with brother, David and parents, Gordon and Vivian at Haddington, East Lothian. Andrew says “The Astronaut monitors milk quality at every milking and we watch for spikes. Cell count has fallen by around 30% to SCC 180 and we have subsequently been able to reduce antibiotic use by up to 50%"
“We were told we’d find a big improvement in our Jersey herd performance if we invested in a robotic milking system. We didn’t believe it, but it’s actually happened,” comments Andrew Hastie. “Yield has increased by 8% to an average 8,000 litres plus an extra 75kg fat and protein. We’ve budgeted payback over 10 years, a target we should comfortably achieve on yield improvement alone.”
“Milking robots are also good for welfare. Compared with our cows milked in the parlour, those milked through the robot are much more relaxed; they’re able to make their own choices,” he explains.
“Robotic systems were so new to us when we decided we’d reached a certain production ceiling on twice a day milking, and none of us wanted to move to three times a day. However, we believe in technology, and bit by bit we’ve transitioned the herd from parlour to two Astronaut A4 milking robots in 2017, and two Astronaut A5s in 2019."
“Two more A5s are scheduled to arrive by the end of 2020, at which point we will close down the parlour. That sixth robot will enable us to expand the unit to capacity to 460 cows in total with 390 cows in milk.”
Whilst the Hasties were pleased with the A4s’ performance, Andrew says the A5s have proved to be ‘the icing on the cake’. “We’ve found they are even more efficient and reliable. The higher quality lasers make for quicker connections, and subsequently higher cow throughput. Overall, the ergonomics have improved and in turn, we anticipate a substantial reduction in power and water.”
The Hasties have installed Lely Grazeway gates enabling them to continue to graze the herd for six months of the year, whilst they have also invested in a Juno which pushes a TMR up to the feed fence every two hours. “It’s made a huge difference keeping feed fresh, the mix consistent, increasing intakes by an average 1.5kg DM and contributing to yield.”
He adds: “Whilst the robots have enabled us to reduce working hours, we continue to employ three staff; we have been able to build up their skill set and they use their time more efficiently. The system also frees up our time, sufficient for all three families to holiday together once a year.”
Benefits the Astronaut has bought the the farm:
- Increased yield
- Improved health
- Enhanced cow welfare
- Better quality of life for both cows and farmers