Don’t cut corners when it comes to adding milking automation technology to your new dairy parlour.
That’s the advice from the owners of Beckside Farm, Cumbria, which early in 2019 embarked on a major project to upgrade their dairy operation.
It included replacing the farm’s tired, 25-year-old, 12/24 herringbone system with a 54-bail Centrus Composite Rotary platform made by Waikato Milking Systems. The New Zealand company will be at the UK Dairy Day this year.
Beckside Farm is one of many around the UK and Ireland converting from in-line to rotary milking systems.
The farm is located in Whicham Valley, in North West England. It is a family operation owned by Robert and Rowena Morris-Eyton, with their son Patrick and his grandmother business partners as well.
The property also farms sheep and has been in the family for more than 300 years.
In 2018 the family decided to expand its dairy enterprise to accommodate more cattle. That included building a new, state-of-the-art rotary milking parlour and cow housing facilities.
Work started on the new development in March this year. The family expected to be able to milk in the new parlour in September but the overall project won’t be finished until about November.
Overall the new parlour, being installed by Shepherd Dairy Services, would enhance the family dairy business and secure its long-term viability.
Patrick Morris-Eyton said Beckside Farm has about 263 hectares for its dairy operation.
“We have three full-time staff members on the dairy farm side of the operation.”
It has 250 pedigree Holsteins but expects the herd to be up to 330 late in 2019.
“We produce 2.5 million litres of milk per annum on the 250 cows but that will increase with the expansion of the herd.
“Once we get up to full numbers of 400, we’re aiming to be sending 5 million litres per annum.”
Beckside Farm is a member of Arla Farmers, a global dairy company owned by 12,000 farmers in seven countries.
“We supply UK retailers Morrisons through our Arla contract,” Patrick said.
The projected increase in production meant the farm’s old milking parlour needed to be upgraded or replaced.
“Our old parlour had just turned 25 years old. It had been updated but was starting to show its age,” Patrick said.
“We were also taking three hours at each morning and afternoon, to milk the 210 cows through the parlour.
“We wanted to expand and one of our requirements was to be able to milk 200 cows per hour for one person as a minimum.”
That meant the family had to investigate which parlour could offer automation options to cut down on labour time at milking.
They also wanted dairy herd management options which could capture valuable data on each cow, to help the farm make better decisions for the herd.
“We spent a bit of time talking to people with rotaries as well as looking at different brands working,” Patrick said.
“We went for Waikato Milking Systems because we liked the composite deck on the Centrus platform.
“It is much lighter than a traditional concrete deck therefore, less wear on the running gear.”
Patrick’s research also showed the Centrus deck had a higher level of resistance to chemicals, compared to concrete platforms.
“I personally milked on a Waikato Milking Systems rotary in New Zealand and really liked it, being simple and easy to use.”
The milking automation technology on the Beckside Farm parlour includes Electronic Milk Meters, SmartECRs and SmartSPRAY, to name just three.
“We have to have milk meters to record milk data, as part of our contract requirements,” Patrick said.
“And also being pedigree Holsteins, we like to have that data there for future use if wanted.”
The farm’s old parlour had automatic cup removers so adding a more modern SmartECR was a must for the parlour.
“We wouldn’t be without them because the cluster is removed at the correct time, therefore helping with udder and teat health,” Patrick said.
“With SmartSPRAY, again we already had an automated teat spray system with ADF so we wanted to continue with something automated.
“It means there is one less job to do when milking if it can be done automatically.”
The Beckside Farm parlour is also adding the Waikato Milking Systems, NaviGate Dairy Management System.
It gathers milking automation data on each cow so the farmer can make better management decisions for the herd. It can also automatically sort and weigh each cow at the end of milking time.
“We want to use the NaviGate system to analyse information on every cow. It’ll allow us to treat each cow as an individual within the herd.”
Patrick had some key advice for other farmers looking to redevelop their old dairy parlours.
“Work out what you want from a parlour and don’t cut corners on technology that can make your life easier.
“A new parlour will be there for many years to come. You will spend plenty of time in there, so you want it to be comfortable for both you and the animals.
“With that in mind, keep things simple, don’t over complicate your planning but also don’t be afraid of technology.”
Waikato Milking Systems will be at UK Dairy Day, The International Centre, Telford, Shropshire on September 11, at Hall 2 site 38.
Robert and Rowena Morris-Eyton with Dan Davies from Shepherd Dairy Services, and Patrick Morris-Eyton, standing next to the new Centrus Composite Rotary platform made by Waikato Milking Systems.
Beckside Farm expects to be able to milk in the new 54-bail rotary in September although the overall dairy parlour development won’t be completed until later this year.