“I’ve been milking cows since I left school at 16. Dairy farming can really wear you down with its life sentence of twice a day milking, but this robotic system has taken the daily grind out of the work and renewed my love of farming”.
- 2 x second-hand Astronaut A4 robots
- 1 x Grazeway to be fitted before spring to allow grazing option
- 300 acres
- 80 cows with plan to increase herd to 150 cows within 12 months
- 10% yield increase in first 3 months from 22 litres to 28 litres on average
- Averaging 3 milkings a day
- Calve all year round
The decision-making process
Relocating to Devon from the Midlands to a farm without a parlour forced dairy farmer James Seabridge to fully consider his options. Having investigated robotic milking at his home farm in Staffordshire, the relocation really focused his mind on how he wanted his future in dairy farming to look.
After spending many months discussing options with Sales Specialist Kevin from Lely Center Devon & Cornwall, it became apparent to James that buying two new Lely A5 robots was not financially viable, so he pressed pause on the move to robotics and installed a temporary parlour. This temporary set-back allowed James to milk his herd whilst continuing to explore all options and all brands of robots. After looking at the alternatives, what really clinched the deal was the fact that Lely is such a recognised brand, and this gave James the confidence that should something go wrong, the backup would be there for him. But, more than anything, it was the reputation that Lely Center Devon & Cornwall have of caring for their customers that really helped James make the decision to move to Lely and invest in Astronaut robots. “The fact is, that Lely are the most recognised, most established brand and have the best name. And really, it’s the name and the backup service that is more important than the colour of the machine and Lely Center Devon & Cornwall has a great reputation for its customer support” explained James.
Whilst buying new was still not an option, a fortuitous ‘keeping in touch’ call from Kevin informing James about two second-hand A4 robots left James feeling that everything was finally falling into place for the Seabridge’s.
“The system is, hand on heart, absolutely fantastic”
Almost overnight, James’ working hours reduced from 15 / 16-hour days to a more manageable family friendly workload and little things like never having the time to breakfast with his 4 children changed almost immediately. The flexibility the robots have given the family – the fact that they are not stuck in the “daily grind of twice a day milking” - means that James can be in the shed at 6am with the cows but still be able to make it home for breakfast and do the school run in the morning before returning to the shed for the rest of his daily tasks.
“Having robots has given me more flexibility; I am still as busy, but I can manage my time better, and the cows can manage their time better. I’m busy, but in different ways and if I want to take half an hour off the farm, I can knowing that the cows are ok.”
James decided not to employ builders but undertook most of the construction work himself and has nothing but praise for Project Coordinator Gary. James explained that Gary helped him every step of the way and was never too busy to triple check a measurement for him or assist with any question no matter how small. “Gary really stuck with me, he’d always have time for me to check measurements and never got impatient”
Productivity and Cow Welfare
The wealth of information he is receiving from the robots; including health, milk quality, nutrition and heat detection advice is invaluable to James. The feed to yield information means that James is not wasting money on the feed to the cows that do not need it. He’s making accurate decisions with the information, which in turn equals more milk/margin per cow. Additionally, the health advice has been eye opening, “the huge benefit of the Lely robots is that the computer picks up issues with milk quality far sooner than I did previously. The computer system recognises mastitis much quicker than a human eye would in a parlour so that is enabling us to treat it and cure the cow over far quicker”
A concern of James’ was how some of his older cows would adapt to the new system, he had heard that older cows wouldn’t take to the robots which is, in James’ opinion “complete rubbish”. He explains that “these old cows who we brought down to Devon with us, and should be stuck in their ways, absolutely love the robots. The older cows are calm, stand still and let the robot do its job, they love it. We haven’t had to get rid of any of our cows, they have all taken to the robots and have created their own routines really well. The robots are like the cows’ new toy, they are really happy and content”.
“We’re just trying to keep things simple at the moment with round bale silage and concentrate in the robot and we’ve got a couple of cows doing 45 litres, so things are moving in the right direction with the whole herd averaging around 28 litres which is up from 22litres in the old temporary parlour. I would like to average 32 litres within the next 12 months”
Lely Center Devon & Cornwall
James has found everyone at Lely Center Devon & Cornwall “caring and helpful”, from Kevin in sales and Gary’s project coordination expertise to the entire Farm Management Support team and each engineer who has been on farm to either install, commission or start-up the robots. James explained that it is “really obvious how much the whole team care about the customers and the cows”
More time, higher yield, more data and a better work life balance have all convinced James that, just 3 months into his robot journey, he and his family have made the right decision to move to Lely robots.
“To conclude, I haven’t got any complaints at all with the robots, the system or anyone at Lely Center Devon & Cornwall. The after service is superb, they (engineers and FMS) do really care and want to help me fix any issue I want to talk to them about”