Swapping a 50-point rotary parlour for 8 Lely A5s has helped to step up efficiency towards a sustainable future in dairying for the Pierce family and their 300 dairy cows, based in Arnesby, Leicestershire.
“We used to employ a team of three staff to milk two times a day, however it was becoming an increasing challenge to both attract and retain staff,” says Mark Pierce. “Nowadays, we are running the unit with a lower labour input, which has enabled us to make substantial financial savings.”
Mark's concerns over staff recruitment are reflected in a 2021 Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers’ survey which studied trends over the last five years and concluded that 63% of producers struggled to recruit, whilst almost 80% of respondents said staff recruitment was a worrying issue. Almost 50% of respondents had employed foreign labour due to difficulty in recruiting from the domestic workforce, and going forward reliance on foreign labour was a real concern since access to any new foreign workers was restricted post Brexit.
Mark continues: “We are also able to take better care of each individual cow, thanks to the massive amount of accurate data generated by the Horizon software program. Since the robots were installed, the milk yield per cow has increased by over 20%.
This is mainly due to the cows being able to be milked 3+ times per day and accurate use of concentrates. We didn't feed concentrates in the parlour before, and we were worried that our cost of production would increase significantly moving to robots. However, this has not been the case."
He adds: “Through the use of data and concentrate optimizer* we are targeting feed at the right cows which produce us the margin. We input the costs of our concentrates and our milk price into Lely Horizon, and it is now possible to rank cows by margin per cow per day. Concentrate Optimizer automatically adjusts the feed rates to ensure cows are being fed to their optimum level." As a result of this, Mark's cows only receive an average of 4.317kg of feed per cow per day.
"Feed costs per litre is critical to our business, by maximising milk from forage and using Lely Horizon to optimise the feeding of our cows, we can ensure a low cost of production, and improve our margins."
"Now that the system is in place, we can confidently increase our cow numbers, to optimise the production from our farm."
*Feed Optimisation module available on Lely Horizon.