Robotic system: 1 DeLaval VMS™ box unit on Feed First with 3 Smart Gates™
Farm: Andrew & James Walsh, Co. Wexford, Ireland
Soil type: Heavy to medium-heavy
Weekly rainfall: 40mm
Milking cows: 59
Grazing platform: 22ha
Grazing system: ABC grazing, using strip wires and back fence
Re-cap of week 6
- Feed to Yield system
- Energy Corrected Milk (ECM)
- Ms/cow/day 1.8kg
- Grass growth 58kg DM/ha/d
Week 6 (10th- 16th October)
Growth rate 50kg DM/ha/d
AFC 1000kg DM/ha
Cover/cow 370kg DM/ha
Stocking rate 2.68LU/ha
Demand/cow/ha 44kg DM/ha
Concentrates fed 4.3kg/cow/day
SCC (‘000) 57
TBC (‘000) 4
Milk yield has managed to increase this week, largely due to the type of grass that they are being allocated. A larger proportion of the diet now consists of more clover, thus increased milk solids for this week. SCC is still very good especially for the time of year.
Colder weather slows down growth. Growth rates have dropped by 8kg DM/day from 58 to 50kg DM/day. This is still very high for the time of year, and AFC is currently at 1000 kg
Although there was 35mm of rain at the weekend and grazing conditions got worse, clean-out of paddocks is still very good, and only very minimal damage to the ground is evident.
We are now into the final rotation in some of the paddocks this week. Rotation length is at around 50 days (average across the ABC grazing blocks) without the needed for additional supplementation.
PGY this week:
A 1850kg Dm/ha B 1600kg Dm/ha C 1700kg Dm/ha.
Weekly topic: Why Robotics?
“Time is really the only capital any human being has, and the only thing they can’t afford to lose” Thomas Edison once said.
A robotic milking system does not necessarily mean more time in the day for the farmer, but there is definitely much more flexible time.
The farmer no longer has to spend three or four hours standing in a pit under the cows each day. Instead, this time is spent doing more productive tasks that will produce more of a profit for the farm. These tasks include:
- Grassland management
- Monitoring information on the cows
- Maximising the cows genetic potential
The different time allocations for tasks in the day between the systems are:
Manual labour on the farm is reduced with a robotic milking system. This creates a much preferred lifestyle for the farmer, and is more attractive for the next generation to continue farming.
Many long term injuries on the farm are caused by repetitive strains, many of which are caused by the lifting of clusters each day, twice a day.
In our old parlour, with 60 cows from January until October, 245 tonnes of clusters would have been lifted over this period or 144,000 cup attachments!
This weight has a huge baring on the back and inevitably brings about long term injuries. This is before even mentioning the danger posed by being under the animal, putting yourself at risk from kicks.
Economics for a robot
1 DeLaval VMS single box unit will milk 70+ cows or 3000kg/day (depending on type of cow i.e. slow or fast milking)
- €53 per day over 7 years
- Running cost are approximately €9 per day
- Total of €62 per day
Farm relief milking costs about €70 per day for twice a day milking. The difference is €8 per day between a farm relief milker and a milking robot, which does the job consistently every day doing exactly what you tell it to do!
Over a 7 year period, the saving would equate to around €20,000!
Improved herd health
Prevention is the best remedy when it comes to optimising the health of the herd. In a conventional system, generally an underperforming cow goes undetected, or a sick cow unnoticed until she is showing serious symptoms.
There is so much information being collected on a daily basis by the robotic system that any variation in the data is quickly noticed. This may be anything from a slight change in milk conductivity (indicating the onset of mastitis), to a cow suddenly not consuming the allocated feed. So underperforming cows or sick cows are quickly identified and treated accordingly.
The cows are no longer looked at on a herd basis, now each cow is an individual and monitored individually. With the DeLaval VMS it is made simple to monitor each cow’s milk on a per quarter basis!
Consider it an option
There are many reasons for choosing a robotic milking system, and if a farmer is considering upgrading their current milking parlour, or is a new entrant, robotic milking should not be overlooked and all options should be considered.
This system is not suited to everyone, and it is important to know that it is never a matter of putting in a robot and walking away from your cows! These systems are for farmers who want to maximise the potential of their cows and who like working with them (not against them!)
Tip of the Week
If you are considering going down the road of robotics do not rush the decision making process. This takes time and you need to weigh up the pros and cons before taking the plunge. As stated, robotic milking is not for everyone!
To get the most out of this system the farmers computer skills need to be at an adequate level. Many farmers who install robotic milking systems may have a younger person working with them who are quickly able to navigate around the software.
There is so much information available about each cow in the software, but after a while you will soon learn what information is relevant and what is less so.
Nearly two years on and we are still finding out new exciting components of the Delpro™ software, so we are never done learning!