David is up to start his day. His first task is to check for any calvings. “I definitely don’t need to be up so early, but I love the mornings. It’s peaceful and quiet and I get a good start on the day.”
He also collects any late cows identified by the Horizon app and encourages them to visit the robot. “It’s only a handful of animals usually and tends to be the late lactation cows that are ready to be dried off, or fresh heifers that need reminding about the robots!”
Now is also the time when David washes down the A5s, changes filter socks and once a week tops up chemicals.
Next he mixes and dispenses the cows’ first load of total mixed ration. “While they are at the feed fence I spread clean sawdust in the cubicles. The Discovery Collector keeps everything clean of manure so this is another quick job.” With that done he mixes and delivers a second round of feed which the Lely Juno then keeps pushed up to the fence.
With 100 youngstock on the farm too there are a lot of mouths to feed. Now is time for David to mix and dispense feed for the youngsters before heading into the farmhouse for his own breakfast, at around 8am.
He takes about 20 minutes to enjoy some toast. “The Horizon app keeps me up to date with any issues so none of that needs checking at this point,” he says.
Back outside David beds up the youngstock before heading out to the fields for whatever tasks need doing whether it’s drilling forage crops, spraying or mowing. “That work might take a few hours or all day, depending on the time of year,” he says. “If I have freshly calved heifers I try and get back to remind them about the robots two or three times during the day.”
With four children aged 9, 7, 5 and 3 David and Sarah are extremely busy at home too! Since investing in automation David is now able to spend more time with the family, get involved in after school activities and they can now have an evening meal together as a family. “Previously that afterschool time always coincided with milking,” he says. “It’s made such a difference that I am now free to spend more time with the children and go along to things like school plays.”
At some point David will do a last check for any late cows. “The time I do that is flexible and it only takes a few minutes.” With cameras and the Horizon app entrusted to alert him of any issues, he can relax in the knowledge that all is well. “Previously I would have gone out to do a late-night check, but I don’t need to do that now.” Overnight alarms from the Astronaut are rare, he adds. “In the early days I had one or two when the robot had run out of chemicals, but I soon learned that I need to check that during the day!”
Investing in automation has been life changing, he concludes. “At weekends we can leave the farm and enjoy time away without clock watching and worrying about being back in time for milking. It also enabled my Dad to retire and step back from the business as I can manage it all pretty much on my own.
“I have much better work life balance now. It’s really great.”
Planning for success with large herds
When planning to automate a large dairy unit it’s important to think beyond milking, says Ben Nottage, Lely Atlantic’s DairyXL Account Manager.