Converting from Sucklers to Dairy
For over 150 years, Mark Lewis’ family have worked the same ground on which the farm sits to this day. In August 2020, the farm converted from a suckler beef herd to a fully robotic dairy unit with 120 cows being milked by two Lely A5 robots. In February 2023, Mark decided to automate the business further by installing a Lely Juno and Discovery scraper to fine-tune his daily operations, making life easier.
With a herd average of 10,800 kgs at 4.4% butterfat and 3.45% protein, the dairy unit is nothing short of impressive and continues to be successful, even in hard times. Since fitting the robots into the existing beef shed, Mark states 'I have no regrets on converting’.
When the decision was initially made to convert from sucklers to dairy, Mark had a clear vision for the farm stating that “we wanted to introduce automation, whether that be technology to reduce labour or improve cow health/performance, we were keen to use it. The Lely Juno fits into that. We had no real changes to make structurally; it just made sense.”
A lot of time and careful consideration was put into the decision, with Mark stating, 'We researched everything thoroughly; with robotics being the only way forward.'
The commitment to automation from the start of the conversion has future-proofed his farm and improved his lifestyle from various aspects. The idea of milking in a parlour didn’t appeal to the family, with Mark stating, 'we just didn’t fancy the regimental routine of milking in the parlour… it was robots from the start for us. My uncle used to milk here 18 years ago but your day was always dictated by milking times.'
Mark highlighted how the robots cut this out, claiming, 'we start at 7am and we’re finished at 5pm. We aren’t tied to the farm anymore.'
When Mark decided to improve the business he went with Lely, he found that 'Lely made the transition very easy from sales to installation. We converted the suckler shed into the milking shed; there were very few changes needed.'
After installing the Juno in February of this year, the farm benefited immediately from labour savings and increased cow productivity. Mark found that 'The Juno pays for itself. We save a minimum of two hours a day from not pushing silage and our dry matter intake has gone up by 2kgs per cow. The Juno regularly pushes feed 10 times a day, if not more.. it’s a no brainer’.
An important benefit for Mark since installing the Juno is the improved family life. He states that he doesn’t have to 'to push up silage anymore; we feed in the morning, and we’re free for the rest of the day. I have far more time to spend with my family or to pay attention to the finer details of the farm.'
Mark would recommend to any farm debating installing the Juno to 'Just do it. It’s simple. It improves productivity and reduces your workload at the same time.' He went on to highlight the quality of the robots, claiming that 'reliability is first class; we’ve had no issues.’