Reduced antibiotic use and improved lifestyle with Lely A5 Astronaut robots
The Beddoes family, Common Piece Farm, Church Stoke, Powys.
X3 Lely Astronaut A5 robots
X1 Lely Discovery slurry collector
“At the time I was more excited about not milking, but one of the most impressive things of all is the collars and how much information they give you on the cows.” Ben Beddoes
Installing three robots has helped a family farm bring the next generation into the business and free up time. Third-generation farmer Ben Beddoes and his wife Gemma have run a successful ice cream enterprise, Dairy Dreams, for the past 17 years.
Like most diversifications at that time, it was driven by the need to add value to their milk. The business went through significant change during Covid with the couple forced to close the ice cream parlour and start selling ice cream through an honesty freezer, but this has been for the better, says Gemma. It has provided them with more flexibility and now they only open on weekends and during school holidays for scoop ice cream and continue to use the honesty freezer the rest of the time.
This made Ben start thinking about how else they could make life simpler to allow him to spend more time with their sons, Oliver, 18, and Oscar, 15. “Ben came in one morning in January and said he was either selling the cows or putting a robot in. He did not want to milk another winter in that parlour,” recalls Gemma. Cows were previously milked in a 12/24 Herringbone parlour twice daily. Work on the robots started in May and the installation was completed by September.
Since the robots have gone in, the Beddoes have been able to reduce labour and electricity costs and cow health and fertility have improved. “Cows are much happier and healthier. Our electric use has reduced by £200/month which was completely unexpected. We are one fulltime member of staff less and we don’t need our two relief milkers anymore,” explains Gemma. She adds: “We have a better work-life balance. There’s still a lot of work to do but we are no longer tied to milking times and it gives us more flexibility.
“Both the boys play a lot of rugby. Ben wouldn’t be able to watch Oliver play rugby because kick-off would be at 2.30pm and he would start milking at 3pm but now we can do what needs to be done and go and watch them both play.” Fertility has improved with the addition of the Lely Qwes cow-monitoring system.
“We are AI’ing a lot more cows and are getting better results than we ever have,” says Ben. He adds: “At the time I was more excited about not milking, but one of the most impressive things of all is the collars and how much information they give you on the cows.” This has seen mastitis fall from nine cases per quarter to just one in the past three months which has helped lower antibiotics use because sick cows are being picked up and treated quicker, explains Ben.
Ben’s father, Mike, started at the farm with five cows, eight sows and just nine acres and has seen vast progression over the years. “I used to have to milk a cow before going to school on my father’s farm and that was with a bucket and stool. I think the robots are a fantastic addition.” Mike adds: “The biggest plus is milking heifers. We used to have kick bars in the parlour but now milking heifers is a lot easier and the cows are a lot quieter.” “When people tell you the cows are calmer, I thought: ‘how can that be?’ Surely you lose contact with them!’ But the cows are much happier because they can milk when they choose,” explains Gemma. Yield has also improved, says Ben. “In the parlour, we were averaging 7,500 litres annually. Since installing the robots this has gone up to 8,000 litres but I am expecting to get up to 9,000 litres now,” says Ben. The support from Lely has been fantastic, say the Beddoes. “The backup is amazing. If there’s a problem in the middle of the night, the team will come out or talk you through how to fix it over the phone,” explains Gemma. The installation has been built with expansion in mind. Gemma says: “Everything is set up ready for a fourth [robot] if they boys decide they want to milk more cows.” Ben adds: “I put the robots in because over the years I spent little time with the boys as we were building the business and I don’t want them to be in the same situation I was.” However, the change in work pace has already been a big positive with both of the boys keen to return home full-time when they finish their studies.
- Milking 160 cows Fleckviehs
- Selling to Muller/Coop
- Housed year-round, calving
- Yielding 28 litres daily at 4.1% fat and 3.5% protein
- Farming 300 acres, part owned and part rented
- Employs one person fulltime and one person part-time to make ice cream
- 36,000 laying hens run by Ben’s brother Jonathan
- Selling ice cream through farm shops, restaurants and the farm gate.
- Fewer cases of mastitis
- Lower antibiotic use
- High milk yields
- Better fertility
|Production per cow/day||28kg|
|Milkings per day||2.8|