Robot feeder proves revolutionary for Bristol farm
Gone are the days when Mike King spent hours filling the mixer wagon and feeding out twice a day. Instead he can spend his time on other jobs knowing that a robot is taking care of business.
Mike is the first farmer in the South West to install the Lely Vector - a robotic feeding system which automatically mixes and delivers feed to cows 24 hours a day. The robot assesses when individual groups need a top-up and then mixes and delivers the required amount. It’s also capable of mixing numerous pre-programmed diets, allowing more targeted feeding, with minimal labour.
It’s proved time saving for Mike and also benefited production because cows have access to feed 24/7. “I reckon we’re 1.8 to 2 litres a cow a day better off,” he says. “They’re getting fresh feed more often and timid cows get more chance to get fresh feed as it’s going in 10 to 12 times a day.”
The fact food is always in front of them means cows can eat when they want. This fits with the ethos of the farm’s robotic milking systems where cows choose when they want to be milked through one of two Lely A3 Next Astronauts. They can also go out to pasture through a Lely Grazeway gate. Automation also removes the inconsistencies associated with different people mixing or milking each day.
Mike adds: “Everything is a lot more flexible. I can feed the cows whenever I want to. I can do things when convenient. I spend more time managing the cows rather than doing the physical jobs behind them.”
The addition of a Lely Discovery 120 Collector, which automatically hoovers up slurry, also adds to the labour saving. “In combination with the Vector, it’s meant we can get rid of a tractor and the tractors we do have are doing less work,” Mike says.
Farm technology that ultimately boosts cow health and welfare also appeals to the public, which regularly visit the farm to buy milk through the Old Green Farm Dairy vending machine. Mike believes it also helps future-proof the farm.
“Our kids are too young to know what they want to do, but they’re more likely to want to come into a going concern. We’ve constantly got people asking to come work here,” he says.