One thing in life we all value is having a choice.
And that’s been made possible for one south-west producer who took the decision to halve stock numbers at a family-run dairy unit and install a robotic milking machine to ease workload.
Contrary to myth, the technology didn’t remove the need for careful stockmanship or the ability to have human intervention to hand 24/7.
But it has given this producer flexibility; a bit more choice as to how his hours are divided between farm duties and being with the family.
And that has been, possibly, one of the greatest assets of this particular investment in technology for the past three years.
But times change.
The low farm-gate price of milk is seeing this mixed farm business come out of dairying with all 77 head being offered at Holsworthy market next Wednesday (7 December – see Classified p97, 25 November issue).
And the equipment is being sold immediately thereafter.
And so arises an opportunity for another dairy producer to benefit.
With experience in hand, the vendor says moving a robotic stall is not arduous.
Four floor bolts, milk pipes and electricity supply cable disconnected saw this unit moved from its original farm up-country with little drama.
And the manufacturer – in this case Fullwood – has been supportive, reinstalling the unit once it was on-farm and helping with routine maintenance, says the vendor.
So what has life been like without the tie of standing in the milking parlour?
With cow numbers reduced to 60 head, suggested as the capacity for a single automated stall, there’s been more time to look after both the herd and other stock on the unit.
In most cases, the intervention triggered by the robotic milking stall’s telephone-based alert system has simply been to clean a laser lens; something that even a helpful neighbour has picked up.
Training cows to the unit took time, but a self-built training stall – that’ll be offered separately to the successful purchaser of the robotic milker – has ensured this year’s heifers have integrated without drama.
But perhaps the main benefit has been away from the herd.
Being able to slip away from stock duties and see children put to bed or simply to be in the house when help is needed has been a choice that’s certainly improved day-to-day life, he says.