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Maximising milk from grass: with robots + Grazeway


The Rae family was amongst the first in their region to introduce milking robots a decade ago. “We installed two Lely Astronaut A3 automatic milking systems back in 2011 and then carried on milking the rest of the cows through the parlour,” Alan explains. “Four years later, such was our confidence in the robots that we decided to invest in another two and milk the entire herd through the automated system.”

“This time we bought two Astronaut A4s, and within weeks saw another lift in performance - an average extra 1,500 litres per cow over a lactation which again has contributed towards covering the investment cost,” says Alan who manages a 265-cow pedigree Holstein herd based near Collin, Dumfriesshire.

“We’ve also got Grazeway gates installed outside the shed which enables the cows to choose whether and when they want to go out to graze or come in for milking. If we couldn’t graze our cows, then we wouldn’t have robots.

“Whilst the robots are saving on labour for milking, we continue to employ three people, we just give them different jobs to do, for example we’ve started DIY AI and we are now strip grazing which requires moving the fence two times a day in an attempt to keep the area as tight as possible, make best use of grazed grass and encourage the cows to come back for milking.

“We’ve also got more quality time to spend with the cows and to rear calves. Equally important, we’ve also got more family time - I no longer have to be back at a certain time of day to milk cows. We no longer have that rush at each end of the day.

“In fact, the robots have not only taken the pressure off myself and my Dad, Johnstone but also the cows. They are no longer standing in the collecting yard for two and a half hours twice a day. The cows are doing more useful things - eating, ruminating and making milk and we’ve less feet issues.”

He adds: “Ever since Dad went off with David Henderson from Lely Center Longtown to investigate robots working in Cumbria well over 10 years ago, we’ve got on really well with the Center’s staff. They’re a steady group and provide a very professional service.”

The Rae family’s main reasons for grazing cows

  • A real joy in seeing cows out grazing in the sunshine

  • Health benefits

  • A welcome change in the routine and workload

  • Maximising milk from grass to reduce inputs and costs