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Vector at Newhouse Farm

X1 Lely Vector Mixing Feeding Robot

X 2 Lely Discovery 90 robotic scrapers

X 4 Lely Luna brushes

X 4 Lely A4 robots

X 1 Calm automated milk feeder

Fact file:

  • Milking 230 pedigree Holsteins
  • Selling milk to Muller Direct
  • Own 265 acres (all grass)
  • Averaging 3.5 visits to the robots per day
  • Producing 40 litres per cow per day
  • Employs two part-time labour units.

 

Improved performance:

+ Contributed to a 1.5 litre increase in milk.

+ Helped lift pregnancy rate from 20.2% to an average of 32.4% for the past three months.

+ Saved an hour daily feeding and provided more flexibility.

Installing an automated feeding system has provided Mark and Caroline Davies with flexibility to spend more time with their three daughters.

Mark and Caroline, who milk 230 cows at New House Farm, Little Newcastle, Haverfordwest, had already gone down the automation route – building a state-of-the-art 240-cow cubicle shed and installing four Lely A4 robots in March 2018.

The Lely Vector automated feeding system seemed like the next logical step.

“The Keenan diet feeder was 12 years old and needed replacing and we were swayed by all the other benefits of little and often feeding and better cow health,” explains Caroline.

The Vector was installed in June 2023. A new shed to accommodate the ‘feed kitchen’ ––­ where the ration is stored and mixed – was built. This cost £90,000 (including concrete), with the Vector taking the total to about £225,000.

The installation of the Vector was quick and straightforward, recalls Mark.

“The installation from Lely was A* and only took about two weeks.”

How it works

Once ingredients are added to the mixing feeding robot (MFR) using an overhead grab, mounted on a gantry crane, the tub travels to the shed guided by metal strips.

It pushes up feed hourly and the laser scans the height of the feed fence at the same time to determine if more feed is required.

At Newhouse, one ration (see box 1) is fed to milkers and dry cows, with higher-risk animals (third calvers and above, fat cows or those that have had an extended dry period), given Kexxtone boluses routinely.

Older cubicle accommodation was too small to accommodate dry cows and although the couple admit this approach to feeding is quite unconventional, they have very few problems.

“We might get one or two sub-clinical cases of milk fever. I think milk fever is stress induced as well and we are minimising this with cows kept in the same group from the moment they calve as heifers,” explains Mark.

Benefits

It had been taking Mark 1.5 hours to feed the cows twice daily. However, installing the Vector has saved one hour daily with it only taking half an hour to fill the feed kitchen.

Feed waste has been reduced and ration consistency has improved, adds Mark.

“I would have previously been cleaning out the feed once a week but now that’s a lot less.”

More importantly, the Davieses say it has given them more flexibility, which is important as busy parents to three daughters, Mari, 9, Evie, 5, and Carys, 1.

“It is easier to attend events with the children that are at milking and feeding time,” says Caroline.

The Vector has been installed with expansion in mind.

Longer-term the plan is to erect another shed for dry cows and bulling heifers to allow targeted feeding of dry cows and reduce ration costs and a second MFR will be purchased to feed these.

BOX 1: Total Mixed Ration ingredients:

  • 4.75kg Blend
  • 1.2kg Lucerne
  • 0.36kg straw
  • 9.7kg grass silage
  • 1.3kg round bale grass silage

(kilos of dry matter fed per cow).

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