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Torrence, Nick, Katie and Harley Summerfield

The latest milestone in milking

A5's introduce major improvements to herd performance and efficiency

“Installing Lely milking robots has truly changed our lives and we’re now working together as team family,” says Nick Summerfield who manages the 225-cow pedigree Summerfields Holstein herd with his wife Katie, son Harley and daughter Torrence. “Since switching on four Lely A5s 12 months ago, we’re managing the herd more efficiently, we’ve more flexibility, we’ve a better work-life balance and we’ve succession.

“I was stuck in a routine running ragged and didn’t want to spend another 20 years standing in a parlour. We were milking 370 head, the herd couldn’t get past 10,000 to 10,500 litres on twice a day, milking took 3.5 hours managed by three people and we couldn’t face upping to three times. When my brother, Tom and I decided to divide the business, that provided the opportunity to swap our 25-yearold herringbone for robots. Today, the herd is heading towards 12,000 litres on 3.4 visits, the cows are doing it with ease and the system is designed for one person to manage at any one time.”

Back in October 2020, Harley took a month off work to help with the robot start up, a period of time training the cows to the robots. “His technological knowledge and attention to detail proved in valuable to the new system. He now is a full time employee within the family business. He agrees the robots have made the decision to work at home an easy one,” says Katie.

She continues: “We’re all now able to access and share the herd’s entire information from one system - Horizon, Lely’s software programme. That’s a massive bonus; we’re no longer dependent on one person. When Nick had a spell off work and in hospital a while back, it made us realise just how vulnerable we all were in the business. He had all the information in his head and we simply couldn’t access it. Horizon has also made the Farm Assurance audit easier; we’ve now more time to keep on top of the paperwork.”

Whilst Torrence has been back home for six years after working with herds in the US, she is continuing her role rearing the youngstock at home, however the robots have introduced a more relaxed working day and for example, the opportunity for better calf colostrum management. “I’ve now more thinking time and attention to detail has improved to such a degree we can get heifers breeding on time - age at first calving is falling from an average 27 to 24 months,” she says. “Best of all the robots have allowed a lot more time for non-farming stuff like riding out. Before there was no time for anything but farming.”

Herd performance benefits

  • Increased yield and overall performance
  • Enhanced business management
  • Better quality of life
  • Flexibility plus future succession