Dairy Update Farmer Focus: Steve Brown on milking robots

Cows were turned out by mid April, a little earlier than usual, on to less grass. This is allowing the cows to keep on top of the grass at present, and not the other way around.

This year our silage shed is as empty as it has been for some time, and letting the cows out should allow us enough silage to buffer the cows through until this year’s crop is available.

In the corner of the silage shed stand two milking robots gathering dust, although the ones in use seem to gather more dust, much to the annoyance or pleasure of the dairy inspector. With volcanic ash from Iceland bringing European airspace to a standstill I thought the resulting dust that inevitably ended up on my milking equipment would likewise be seen as an act of God but sadly that is not the case.

The “new” robots, still awaiting a permanent home, are tucked out of the way for two reasons. First, security, they are valuable assets that could be quite easily taken away and second, for health and safety reasons, both of the robots themselves and of the person who may unwittingly reverse into them with a large farm implement.

It is now four years since our first milking robots were installed and last year milk sold (not produced) was just under 9000 litres a cow. Milk sold two years ago was just over 7300 litres a cow and five years ago would have been about 6500 litres. Now I have obviously fed more to achieve this improved milk production, and improvements should have also been made with genetics, feeding and general management, but the robots and the extra milking they bring, are a major factor as I see it. Alternatively you could argue the worse the performance is to begin with, the greater the degree of improvement that can be made.

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