Students at Plumpton College will be able to experience robotic milking first-hand once two Lely A5 Astronauts have been installed on the college farm. Work is currently underway to extend the college’s current cow housing with a pre-cast concrete building which will house the Astronauts ready for the new term in September.
It will mean that students on the college’s agricultural courses will experience both robotic and conventional milking as the current herd will be divided into two. One group will be milked in a conventional parlour and the other will go through the robots.
College farm manager Daniel Hird says: "It’s really important our students experience this technology and all the data that the robots will be harvesting.”
To maximise on the data capabilities, the college decided to also invest in weigh cells for the Astronauts and Lely management collars. The wealth of data these will generate will be available for teaching staff to use in students’ lessons as well as to the farm staff, he says.
It comes just a few months after the college invested in the Lely Juno feed-pushing robot and Discovery Collector, the muck scraping and collecting robot.
The college’s herd of 270 pedigree Holsteins was already a high-performing herd, but the introduction of the Juno and Discovery has pushed yields further still, says Daniel. Increased forage intakes have helped increase yields from around 32.6 litres/cow/day to 35.6 litres.
“Before the Juno, pushing feed was one of those ‘just jobs’ that we would do when we had a spare five minutes, but now the Juno does seven to eight cycles per day so it gets done much more frequently. Also, our final night check was 9.30pm which meant that feed wouldn’t be pushed again until 5.30am but now the Juno is doing it through the night.”
The herd is fully-housed and the Discovery has helped the farm realise significant savings on bedding.
“We used to bed up twice a day, but now the cows are cleaner this only needs doing once, in the morning. We use granulated sawdust due to our slatted system. It’s expensive bedding but thankfully we are now spending half of what we used to.”
Although too early to quantify, he also believes there will be health benefits from the Discovery, with fewer mastitis cases.
Student involvement so far has been limited due to Covid-19 restrictions, but the response from them has been hugely positive, says Daniel. “They have been very impressed to see the robots in action in the sheds.”
Staff meanwhile have been positive about time from laborious tasks being freed up, allowing them to focus on other tasks. Meanwhile Daniel has been very pleased with the service from his local Lely Center in Yeovil. “Increased use of technology and data is the way the industry is going, and we want our students to be industry-ready when they complete their courses. For that we need to expose them to technology like this, so they can access better jobs after college.”
For more information on all the Lely farm automation products visit: www.lely.com/gb