2 August 2002

ROBOTMILKERAUTUMNDEBUT

GELLI Aur College will have a robotic milking facility fully operational by the end of September.

The £100,000 development will milk a new herd of high genetic merit cows averaging more than 10,000 litres/head. Calving will take place all year and the aim will be to have 50 lactating cows each day.

Milkers will be housed, except when dry, and will be fed a complete diet based mainly on whole-crop cereals and forage maize. Farm manager, John Owen would also like to feed some zero-grazed grass and high quality grass silage.

"We can transfer a few spare cows from our high margin/cow herd, but we will have to go out into the market to find the genetics we are looking for," says Mr Owen. New cubicles are being installed to ensure that large framed Holsteins can be accommodated in comfort.

The Welsh Development Agency is helping to finance the new unit to evaluate whether robotic milking has a place in west Wales. "The question is whether the concept would allow producers to continue in milk production, while earning some income from jobs off the farm."

High yields are needed to justify the big investment involved in robotic milking, but the next stage could be the installation of a unit to milk 70 cows which are allowed access to grazing.

When the herd is established, its physical and financial performance will be compared with that of the two herds currently run on contrasting systems. &#42