Exploiting the A5 milking robot’s exit gate potential has provided the Kitto family with the opportunity to combine robotic milking with grazing a portion of their 185-cow pedigree Holstein herd for up to six months of the year, and in turn pre-empt their processors’ requirements.
The A5 system has also contributed towards yield increasing by almost 20% to a current average 10,300 litres since installation two years ago. “Whilst grazing isn’t compulsory, the contract with our processor requires us to state how many days the herd has access to grazing. Consequently, we are providing the cows in the last two months of their lactation with the opportunity to paddock graze for six to seven hours a day between April and October, weather permitting,” explains Phil Kitto who farms with his wife, Janice and sons, Harvey and Rowan, near Looe, Cornwall.
“Providing these cows with the choice to graze helps to gradually ease off production and transit into the drying off process without any issues, whilst it relieves pressure within the main portion of the herd and provides more space opportunity for milking. We also like to see them out grazing, lying down and stretching,” he says. “We are operating a simple paddock grazing system offering 35 acres, for up to 35 cows at any one time, the furthest being 500 metres from the shed and accessed directly by an existing track.” The Kittos programme the system to allow these cows to access the grazing paddocks immediately after milking. The robot exit gate opens at the point of exit from the shed, and the cows can choose for themselves whether they go out to graze of return to remain indoors.
“Whilst the rest of the herd is making an average 3.2 visits to the robot, these cows going out to graze towards the end of their lactation are averaging 2.2 visits and yielding 20 to 25 litres a day.” The system has also the bonus of reducing feed costs. “Grazing is more cost effective; it offers the cheapest form of protein during the summer months and it is contributing to around 30% of their daily yield.” He adds: “The Lely A5 robots combined with adapting the exit gate have helped to significantly improve herd health and welfare along with an average 1,600 litres per cow yield increase, whilst grazing a portion of the herd has introduced another element of flexibility.”