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Anne Stones with Herdsperson Sam Mosford

Improving accuracy and performance across the business

Anne Stones, Smeaton Hall Farm, Wrenbury, Cheshire

“There is no doubt that Lely products are fantastic. I wouldn’t be milking cows if it wasn’t for Lely.”

X4 A4 robots

X1 A5 robot

X 1 Lely Vector

X2 Lely Discovery robots

X1 Lely Calm

2x Lely Discovery Collectors

After struggling with the physical workload of dairying and being unable to get reliable milking staff, Anne Stones took a huge leap of faith and invested in robotic technology.

The first Lely A4 Astronauts were installed at Smeaton Hall Farm in 2016 and it convinced Anne to autonomise the farm as much as possible. Since then, a Lely Vector automatic feeding system and a Calm automatic calf feeder have been installed, alongside two Lely Discovery slurry collectors.

“It was the right thing to do, but it took guts to do it. At the time, I probably put the Vector in for the wrong reasons [we were losing staff] but it was the right decision,” admits Anne.

The move has not only created a labour-efficient and friendly working environment, but it has optimised cow health and welfare at Smeaton Hall Farm with just two fulltime people employed at the farm plus a part-time member of staff.

The investment has enabled Anne to take a step back from the day-to-day management of her 280-cow herd while simultaneously setting new bars for performance under the capable eye of her herd manager, Sam Mosford.

Performance and health improvements

Since installing the robots, cow yield has lifted from 7,500 litres to 11,600 litres.

Table 1: Robot milking performance

Milking speed


Free time




Daily yield

39.8kg at 3.55% protein and 3.98% fat

Cow health has improved exponentially. Much of this is down to the team’s adoption of real-time cow monitoring technology using Lely’s Horizon app, which enables them to pre-empt problems and treat animals quickly before they get clinical signs of sickness.

Displaced abomasums have decreased from 5% to 0.5% and fertility has increased from 16% to 26% over the past three years alone.

Somatic cell counts have been reduced from 250,000 cells/ml to 170,000 cells/ml. At the same time, only 30% of antibiotic tubes are now used at drying off.

Not only has the app made cow-side monitoring easier by bringing the data from the desktop to the mobile, but it has made calculating monthly feed costings straightforward too, explains Anne.

“Using Horizon, I know how much of every product we have used each month. Before, when I did feed costings, I would have to get all my bills out and try to work out how much we had left, but Horizon is accurate within 1kg,” she adds.


Investing in robots has given Anne renewed enthusiasm for the future. She is an ardent participant in Lely’s benchmarking group, Elevate, and says together with Sam’s hunger to improve it is helping take the business to the next level.

“Lely Elevate is fantastic. It is a group of really driven people with no egos.”

Improved performance:

  • + 4,000 litres
  • 10% improvement in pregnancy rate
  • Fewer fresh cow problems.

Farm facts:

  • Milking 280 Holsteins
  • Farming 350 acres
  • Averaging 11,633 litres at 3.55% protein and 3.98% fat.