22 November 1996

SPEED WASNT TOP PRIORITY

BEING able to milk cows faster may be an important consideration to some when buying a new parlour, but it was not top priority for Cumbrian dairy farmer Richard Batey.

"Speed is important but it is not everything. Personal attention to every individual cow is top of my list, and that is why we chose the autotandem layout," says Mr Batey, who has been milking cows for 34 years.

He runs a flying herd of 95 black-and-white milkers at The Knells Farm, Houghton, near Carlisle, with his wife, Kathleen, and believes that it is essential to see the whole cow during milking – not just the rear end.

"I want to see every cow side-on twice a day to make sure that everything about her is OK. That is something I do not feel you can do properly simply by seeing her from behind."

The £48,000 parlour, housed in a new building measuring 23m x 6m (75ft x 20ft), has now been in operation for almost a year and has replaced an old 6:6 abreast parlour.

"We had no intention of installing a herringbone. We looked at a whole range of parlour designs on different farms, but it was an autotandem working on a farm in north Wales that convinced us this was the design we needed."

Supplied by Dunglinsons of Carlisle, the Westfalia Autotandem presents cows side-on to the pit in a row of individual stalls or boxes. Mr Batey says the system enables cows to feel totally relaxed and undisturbed during milking.

There are four stalls arranged along both sides of the pit. Each stall gate automatically opens as the power supply is switched on.n

Richard and Kathleen Batey and son Stephen chose the auto-tandem because it allows them to give personal attention to every cow.