Robotic milking machines may not suit every farm, but for some they can be the best way of maximising production from set parameters, such as cow number or farm size.

John Baines, Fullwood technical director, told a Dairy Event press briefing robotic milkers could be the best way of improving returns on some farms.

“But farmers should get away from the idea that robotic milking is a way to slash labour requirement.

“Most units see a maximum reduction in labour need of about 15%.

However, staff are not tied to set routines, such as milking at set times of day, so can make better use of their time.”

When cows are free to be milked 24 hours a day, milking almost becomes a background activity, he explained.

But with fewer staff managing more cows, with conventional parlour and robotic systems, technology had a role to play in herd health management, said Fullwood sales manager Chris Stevens.

Rather than view the milking parlour as simply a way of collecting milk, farmers must use it as a tool for herd management, he said.

“Technology now available can help detect high somatic cell count levels, aiding early spotting of mastitis cases.

“This and other technology can spot cows or milking equipment with features falling outside the norm, such as high milk temperature, or a unit which fails to clean.”

But the key is how this information is used, said Mr Baines.

“For maximum benefit information must be easily shared with others who have an impact on herd management, such as vets and nutritionists.”