"Installing robots stopped me selling the herd and kept me in dairy farming” says Chris Cory about his two A5 milking robots.
"After milking in a parlour for almost 40 years, I was ready to sell up, but the robots have made such a difference that I am continuing to farm and my children now have a future in dairy farming.”
Until 12 months ago, Chris, who farms near Hartland, Devon, was milking his 115 cows through a conventional parlour but the decision to move to robotic milking has been a gamechanger and has enabled his two children to become even more involved with the farm, with them intuitively understanding the software and T4C computer program.
The depth of information and insight into each cow has been eye opening for Chris who now knows things about his cows that he had no idea of before despite historically spending so much time with them in the parlour. “For example, the system tests the milk conductivity from each quarter at every milking and mastitis is picked up at the earliest stage so I’m able to treat accordingly.” This has helped with his decision making and allowed him to streamline his processes and improve his herd. He is now looking at growing his herd and is actively bringing in new stock.
As well as seeing improvements in cow behaviour - Chris says the cows are much calmer now they aren’t being collected for parlour milking - as well as improvements in foot health, the installation of the two A5’s has brought Chris and his staff greater flexibility to the daily routine. “The biggest change for me is my lifestyle. I now have time in the afternoons when I used to be in the parlour, and I am able to use this time to look after the health of the cows’ and get other jobs completed.”
The robots have enabled Chris to spend more time with his family and even take time off the farm at weekends, something he wouldn’t have envisaged when miking through the parlour. “Not being tied to twice a day milking means I have more flexibility in my life. I would never go back to a milking parlour” say Chris who also believes that the work / life balances the robots have brought to the farm will also be better for his children when they hopefully run the farm in the future.
Training the herd was relatively easy, with the parlour decommissioned 4 weeks after the robots were installed. Chris explained that “the cows took to the robot really well and the training was stress free. They spent an initial week getting used to walking through the robot and a further two weeks being fed cake in it and by the 4th week, we had stopped using the parlour completely”.
The cows are now averaging 3.1 milkings a day and yield has increased by 20% up from 23 to 28 litres per cow. Milk solids over the same period have remained at 4.15% butterfat and 3.24% protein. Somatic Cell Counts (SCC) were an ongoing issue on the farm. Monthly monitoring with National Milk Records was not enough to control the SCC. It came to the situation that the milk company started to impose penalties because of it. Immediately after installing the first robot Chris was able to sample every milking to get things back under control with the result of consistently receiving the monthly SCC bonus.
In addition to the two A5 milking robots, Chris invested in a Discovery 120 Collector which has also had a positive effect on foot health and the daily routine of the farm. “The Collector manure robot has had a noticeable impact on the cows’ foot health, I have really seen a difference. And the automation has removed a job from our daily routine, I no longer scrape out, freeing me up to do other jobs. The combination of the A5s and the Collector has given me back around 2.5 hours each day – I can finish work by 6.30pm and spend time with my family in the evenings, safe in the knowledge that the barn is being kept clean and the cows are being milked without my intervention.”
Chris says that the aftercare and backup support given by the Lely Center Devon & Cornwall team of engineers, can’t be faulted, “I can ring them at 3am, the phone is always answered and is not left to ring, and they never let me down” he explains “and there were times, at the beginning, when I really was ringing at 3am or 4am but they were always there to sort the problem.”’