The latest milestone in milking - A5’s introduce major improvements to herd performance and efficiency
Investing in greenfield site shed with Lely A5 milking robots has resulted in a 25% yield lift to 10,000 litre herd average and the opportunity to fulfil plans for herd expansion, says Caroline Yarrow. Equally important the development has introduced a solid platform to take forward the enterprise, embrace technology head on and build a sustainable family business.
Lely robot innovation combined with T4C software programme has transformed cow management, she says. “Previously we managed the herd as one, whereas nowadays T4C provides a huge amount of real time information on every cow and heifer, helps us to manage each animal individually and make decisions sooner. Overall, it’s really easy to use, enables,” explains Caroline who farms the family’s 130-cow herd of mainly black and whites in partnership with her husband Danny, and parents, James and Julie Gooch, based near Skipton, North Yorkshire.
For example, management information on each animal’s reproductive performance is amongst T4C’s valued data which has helped to reduce herd average Calving Interval from 440 to 380 days in just 18 months, Danny explains. “We’re able to use the T4C data linked to the system’s automatic segregation gates to optimise AI timing. Also, since each cow is now able to make her own choices, she is more relaxed, heats are stronger and more visible. We also use the T4C information to help arrive at better decisions for sire selection.
“In fact, from day one since switching on in 2019, we’ve followed every cow and heifer with T4C. We spend up to an hour a day analyzing cow performance, checking the health list and any collect cows.
We keep frequently checking throughout the day on our phone T4C Apps.”
Five years ago, the family was at a crossroads milking 90 cows through a 30-year-old tired parlour and housed in traditional buildings with outdated cubicles. To continue in dairy, the unit needed investment and expansion opportunities.
“We attended AHDB strategy meetings which got us thinking as to which direction we wanted the business to go,” says Caroline. “We’ve young children and we felt bringing them into a parlour pit whilst we worked was not on and we wanted more family time. We’d seen the Lely working demonstration at the Great Yorkshire Show, began talking and building a relationship with Longtown Center reps and eventually visited over 12 farms with working robots.
“We finally made the big commitment - we liked the way Lely robots worked in general, particularly the attachment and cleanliness, as well as free movement of cows and how they enhanced cow welfare,” she explains. Two years from outset, the project was finalised to feature a new build slatted shed with 240 cubicles and underground slurry pit, three A5’s with provision for a fourth, and a Discovery 90 SW automated slurry scraper.
“Going forward we’re really excited. Advances in genetics combined with robot technology will enable us to continue to develop and exploit each animal’s potential. Who knows how far we will be able to go.”
Quieter, more relaxed cows
Heifers demonstrate quicker milk let down
Shy cows given the same chance
Minimum wait time for milking, enhanced welfare