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David & Sarah Eva milk 160 fully housed, all-year-round calving Holsteins at Tregarrick Farm in Cornwall. They installed three Lely A5 Astronauts, two Lely Discovery Collector 120s and a Lely Juno feed pusher, in September 2022.

David & Sarah Eva.jpeg

Farm Facts

  • 3 x Lely A5 robots
  • 2 x Discovery Collectors
  • 1 x Juno
  • Installed September 2022
  • 129 currently milking – aim to increase herd size to 150
  • 14.5% increase in yield: from 11,000 litres to 12,600 litres*
  • Average milkings through robot 3.8 vs 2 through parlour
  • SCC: mid / high hundreds and has remained the same
  • Bacto: 12, which is lower than in the parlour where is was at 20

*The results mentioned are specific to this farm; calculated data will vary depending on specific installation conditions

THEN: Farm goals pre-start-up (September 2022)


NOW: Farm Achievements 16 months after start-up (Sept 2023)


1) Maintain milk yield


  1. Yield increased from 11,000 pre robot to 12,600*
  2. Average number of visits to robot: 3.8*


2) Emphasis on fats and proteins


  1. goal met –
  • protein now 3.4% (was 3)
  • Fat now 3.9% was 4.4%


3) Maintain and improve fertility


3) Goal achieved, fertility has improved



David and Sarah Eva, who farm near Helston in Cornwall, have 4 young children aged 9, 7, 5 and 3 so the decision to automate was an easy one as it provided them with the promise of more flexibility and family time! 12 months on and the difference installing robots has made to the family is tangible, with David confirming that robots “were definitely the right decision for us as a family. I could never relax before; I was always clock watching and half my mind was on the fact that I needed to get back to the farm for evening milking. Life is more relaxed now”.

“Installing robots made such a difference to the family, we have so much more flexibility”.

Installing robots has allowed David to attend more school events and he isn’t missing out on so much family time now being able to enjoy days out, trips away and even evenings out.

The decision to automate was taken in conjunction with David’s Dad Chris who, at 73, was still milking alongside David in the parlour. The installation of the robots has allowed Mr Eva (senior) to retire and David to manage the farm on his own with the support of Sarah and their apprentice who works alongside him 4 days a week. The robots have taken the pressure off the small family unit and should David, or Sarah, become ill the robots can now take the strain without adding stress to the rest of the family.

“My father-in-law loves the robots” says Sarah, “he can now help out on the farm when he wants, and he can choose to do the jobs he enjoys which is great. He has always promoted change and told us that you can’t stand still with farming; you must move with the times. He fully supported us automating and installing Lely robots”.

“We always knew that we wanted to automate”, agrees David, “and we didn’t really consider any other brand of robot other than Lely”.

“When you think robots, you automatically think Lely”.

And whilst the reasons for installing robots were manifold, centering largely around creating more flexibility in the working day, before any work could start the Eva’s visited several farms to see different shed set-ups. They knew that robots weren’t going to work in their existing sheds as the buildings were add-ons and awkward, so they wanted to see a range of shed designs and robot layouts before taking the plunge.  Unsurprisingly, given how important shed design is to cow flow and day to day management of the cows, all the farms visited on their research trips gave feedback on how they would change their own shed design. This feedback was invaluable when the Eva’s were working on their own design.

“What was really encouraging on our fieldtrips, was the fact that all the farms we visited gave very honest feedback about robots and what was noticeable was that without exception, they all had plans to expand and add more robots to their setups which we felt was a really positive sign”.

Wanting a smooth and stress-free start-up experience, the Eva’s drafted in family, friends and neighbours to support the transitioning from parlour to robot. And, with 15 people on a rota during each 24-hour period for 10 days, this great support network ensured that they really enjoyed their training and start-up week. “We never regretted it, and it was excellent to have friends and family around for the training period week, it generated a real sense of community”.

“We are so pleased, we really are. Some great support and suggestions from the Lely Center and some good planning meant that we did 10 days of training, so start-up was really simple.”

12 months on, and David can confirm that their shed design and layout works very well not just meeting, but exceeding, expectations. From a cow handling perspective in particular, everything works really well. Navigating cows around the shed to collect is made easy by a series of bungee gates that can be dropped down in advance to direct cows around the shed and be collected into a corner, leaving the remaining two robots free for cows to milk. Locking yolks along the entire feed barrier allows for the cows to be checked by the vet quickly and without the disruption of running cows through a race. Footbaths are dropped down into the concrete outside of the shed, cows can be directed through the bath by moving cows down one passage on the far side of the shed, through the bath, and back into a feed fence as many times a week as David wants to do. Like anything new with cows, the first few times required an extra pair of hands, but now all processes are easy for David alone. Behind all 3 astronauts, David has the option to segregate cows to three areas, a cubicle pen to hold animals in with feed space, a comfy large mattress pen is to the other side, and finally in the middle, cows can be drafted in to use a crush for any treatments or dry offs. This allows David to move his cows by getting the robot to do the work, but continue to maintain an excellent level of stockmanship.  

David describes how the structure of his day has evolved as he has settled into the new robot lead routine and he has got used to the new system, as well as the information generated by the software programme Horizon each day. Loosely, David’s morning routine takes approximately 2 hours a day and looks like this:

  • Collects any late cows – which tends to be late lactation cows or fresh heifers
  • Washes down A5s, changes filter socks and tops up chemicals if required
  • Feed cows
  • Spread sawdust onto cubicle beds 
  • Mixes and dispenses feed for youngstock

For time away from the shed, David finds the Horizon reports really handy, all the key performance indicators can be found on the phone, including the cow information and checking when they were last milked, late lists and tasks. “I do most things on my phone, which really works for me. It’s amazing how much you use the app when you’re just walking around the shed with the cows, checking how much each one has done”. David and Sarah can now manage cows more efficiently with the information generated through Horizon and in some cases can make decisions from the kitchen table i.e. which quarters to milk, are there any signs of conductivity and udders that need to be checked. This level of detail has allowed David and Sarah to spend less on antibiotics due to earlier detection through this system. They both find that the early information generated by the robots is essential and neither could now imagine life without the reports generated.

David is especially pleased with how few alarms he has, “in the early days I had one or two alarms overnight when the robot had run out of chemicals, but you learn from your mistakes quickly, and I realised that I needed to check chemical levels during the day!”

“Contrary to the common myth flung around before we installed robots, we didn’t have to lose any cows when we moved over to robots. In fact, our cows adapted really well to the new way of milking, and some are considerably calmer, which makes sense as, in a parlour, milking dead quarters must be so uncomfortable! Our ¾ teat cows are doing 60 / 70 litres as the robots allow us to milk per quarter and not overmilk so they are experiencing less discomfort”.

Asked for the advice they would give a farmer thinking of installing robots; “Do it! You won’t regret it. And remember to do your daily checks and maintenance, as they are key to keeping robots running smoothly.”

“You get out what you put in. Look after the robots and they look after you.”

*The results mentioned are specific to this farm; calculated data will vary depending on specific installation conditions