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John Buckley

X1 Discovery 120 Collector

Fact file:

  • Farming 440 acres, owned and rented.
  • Milking 120 crossbred dairy cows.
  • Autumn calving from mid-August to November.
  • Yielding 9,500 litres at 4.3% butterfat and 3.36% protein
  • Selling milk to Arla C.A.R.E.
  • 800 Cambridge cross ewes.
  • Milking in two robots.
  • Finishing 60 Aberdeen-Angus beef animals from the dairy enterprise annually. These are sold to Waitrose aged 22 months.

Improvements:

+ Saved 1.5 hours/day.

+ Improved cow cleanliness.

+ Reduced somatic cell count.

Brothers John and Paul Buckley have saved 1.5 hours daily scraping cubicles and improved udder health since installing Lely Discovery 120 Collector slurry robot.

The robot was retrofitted into their milking cubicles, which had been recently expanded to accommodate 40 more cows.

Before completing the extension, they investigated extending the slats from the old building to the new part of the shed but calculated the robot would be cheaper.

“It is perfect for our older shed and cleans areas we couldn’t reach easily with the tractor and scraper,” explains John, who farms with his brother and uncle, Gwyn, at Cefn Isaf, Llandegwyn, Powys.

The Collector runs hourly and completes four routes, servicing the whole of the milking shed. On average, routes take 40 minutes. Once the Discovery’s tank is full it drives to the slurry pit to empty itself and returns to the docking station to charge when required ready for the next route.

The robot sprays water from the front of the machine, to improve manure intake, and from the back, to improve grip. This feature is useful when the slats become slippery, adds John.

Using the Lely Control Plus app, additional routes can be programmed manually.

“If the cows are being foot bathed or the vet is coming, we will set it to clean the area by the crush,” explains Paul.

Installation

The brothers say it was easy to install and took just two hours to set up.

“The sensors need cleaning now and again,” says Paul.

It is low maintenance, too, they believe.

“There isn’t much to go wrong with them. It has been almost two years now and the only thing we have had to do is change the tyres and the scraper blade,” says John.

Benefits

“Within the first month the cell count dropped from 180,000 cells/ml to 140,000 cells/ml because the beds were cleaner,” explains John.

“We were scraping twice a day as it was, but it was still quite dirty in the newer part of the shed because the ventilation is better and we find the cows like to loaf in that part of the shed,” says John.

Paul says it is saving them 1.5 hours/day scraping the shed and moving cows. This is important given both brothers work off farm – Paul is a plumber and John does agricultural contracting.

The robot cost £31,000. The Buckleys received a 40% grant through the Welsh Government Efficiency Small Grants scheme, which meant they had to contribute £18,600.

The Buckleys say the machine paid for itself in two years since its installation in February 2021. This payback is based on the saving in labour alone and does not include the improvement in milk quality through lower cell counts, they add.

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