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The latest milestone in milking - Introducing A5’s to a greenfield site
“It’s definitely been a good move,” says David Templeton just eight weeks after switching on four A5 robotic milking systems, a date which marked the end of a two-year journey from launching plans for a greenfield site dairy to completion.
“Our 160-cow herd has settled in, it’s averaging 35 litres on 3.8 visits, and towards an average 12,000 litres. We are finding our eyes are literally working hand in hand with data from the T4C software programme, and Lely Longtown’s FMS keeps track of how we’re doing.”
The Templeton partnership, David, his wife Kay, brother Robert and parents Bob and Margaret, manage a 900-acre unit near Wigtown, Dumfriesshire and Galloway; they had managed a 350-cow suckler herd until agreeing to swap beef for dairy and eventually build to 300-cows.
Once the decision was made, securing a milk contract was priority after which the family spent the next 12 months investigating robotic milking systems, drawing up plans for the 360-cubicle shed, gaining planning permission and finance, before site development commenced in January 2020. Eleven months later, construction and installation was complete and the unit switched on.
Robots were the Templeton’s first choice. “Installing a parlour was never an option. Whilst both Robert and I enjoy working with cows, we knew we could make better use of our time and it would be a challenge finding reliable staff. I’d seen robots working for over 20 years, and liked the concept. They also provide a nice, safe environment for Kay to bring our two young children into while she is working around the unit.
“We investigated two other robot brands, however Lely was preferred hands down. We just liked the whole package and the company provided a different league of service. We travelled the length of the country with Lely Longtown visiting over a dozen farms with systems up and running.”
During 2020, there was also the fundamental task of stocking. “We were fortunate to locally source - the Lucebank pedigree Holstein herd was scheduled for dispersal and we had the opportunity to buy the entirety.
“These cows were managed in a very traditional system, milked twice a day and averaging just over 9,000 litres. Within 24 hours of transit they’d settled in, by the end of week one, the entire herd was making three visits a day and eight weeks later averaging 35 litres, up over 20% on their previous system. We’re finding the beauty of the robot system is it provides the cows with the opportunity to make their own choices; they tell us if things are being taken too far.”
Complementing the A5 milking robots are four Discovery 120 Collector slurry robots programmed to clean the entire shed every hour, whilst a Juno feed pusher, and two more Collectors are waiting in the wings and a fifth A5 is being commissioned.
The Templeton’s top tips for start ups
Planning: take your time, visit as many other farms as you can
Build design: provide plenty of space, clear air flow
Planning permission: we used a consultant; allow plenty of time to completion
Finance: put together a water tight plan
Transition: take on board Lely’s training advice