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Megan & David Roworth

X 4 Lely A5 Astronaut robots

X1 Lely Calm automatic calf milk feeder

Fact file:

  • Milking 200 pedigree Holsteins
  • Farming 400 acres, owned and rented
  • Growing grass, 70 acres of maize and 100 acres of barley and wheat
  • All-year-round calving with an autumn bias
  • Selling milk to Muller direct
  • Yielding 11,000 litres at 4% butterfat and 3.2% protein
  • Employs one person part-time.

Improved performance:

+ 5l increase in milk.

+ Reduced labour hours.

Husband and wife David and Megan Roworth believe replacing their parlour with robots has helped their high genetic-merit herd reach their full potential.

Since the four Lely A5 Astronauts were installed in May 2023, milk yield has increased by five litres per cow.

In their dated 13-26 swingover herringbone parlour they did not have the capacity to move to three-times-a-day milking without putting a strain on family labour.

With four daughters under five, the Roworths were attracted to the robots because of the flexibility they afforded family life.

Making the transition

The robots were purchased using Defra’s Improving Farm Productivity Grant which funded 40% of the cost of the machines. You can learn more about their grant application process here.

Megan applied for the grant and said the application was straightforward.

To accommodate the robots, a two-bay extension was added to the cubicle shed.

Cows were walked through the robots four days before switch-on so the cows could acclimatise.

“It was unbelievable how quickly they adapted,” says David, who farms in partnership with his dad, Andrew, and brother, Simon.

Benefits

Their Bearwardcote herd is within the top 5% in the country for Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) with heifer calves genomic tested and only the best put to sexed semen.

David believes the move to robots and increase in milking frequency have enabled the cows to fulfil their genetic potential.

Milk yield has increased from 31 litres a cow to 36 litres a head with cows now averaging 3.5 visits daily.

Alongside routine trims at 80-100 days in milk, the robot is contributing to improved foot health because cows spend less time standing, says David.

“The cows are also a lot quieter and calmer, probably because we’re in the shed walking amongst them more often,” adds David.

Two people previously milked in the now-redundant parlour. Milking took two people three hours in the morning and one person 2.5 hours in the afternoon. David says it now takes just one hour to collect cows, which means the robots have saved nine labour hours each day in total.

This has meant the Roworths have been able to reduce staffing requirements by one person part-time.

Routine jobs are now all completed before 8am and the Roworths find they have much more time to catch up with other jobs.

“David has been able to do the school run, and he is in for dinner whereas when we were milking through the parlour he wouldn’t be finished until 6.30pm,” explains Megan.

The goal is to improve milk output by driving further improvements in genetics, management, and nutrition.

David believes robots hold the key to unlocking the last piece of the puzzle ­– efficiency – and says that an automatic slurry vacuum is on the wish list for the not-too-distant future.

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