Investing in innovation is reaping rewards for Billy Halliday who runs a 450-cow pedigree Holstein herd at Kirkpatrick Flemming, near Lockerbie.

Swapping tractor scraping a 200-cow cubicle shed for an automated slurry scraper managed from his phone App is not only saving labour and time, but is also improving cow health and welfare.

“We’ve gone from twice a day scraping the cubicle passages in our new build slatted shed – a job that was limited to when the cows were out being milked, to the robot scraping every two hours; it works away amongst the cows no bother,” explained Billy who farms in partnership with his parents, Thomas and Christine and wife, Joanne.

“I’d seen a robot scraper that had been working away well for 10 years on a neighbour's farm, and had had it at the back of my mind to install in the new shed which we had put up to accommodate expanding cow numbers. After a few weeks of tractor scraping, it’s now almost 12 months since we decided to approach Lely Center Longtown and invest in a Discovery automated slurry scraper.”

Programming the robot to scrape slurry the entire shed including crossovers 12 times a day has had significant impact. “Apart from eliminating the labour requirement to tractor scrape whilst the cows were being milked, we noticed a massive difference in how clean the cows are; they are no longer standing in slurry build up whilst slurry splashing has been eliminated so legs remain spotless which makes for overall better cow health and well-being.

“Udders are cleaner prior to milking and feet issues are minimal, whilst the system is helping to maintain SCC at the 80 to 100 mark and Bactoscan 10. Furthermore, the cubicle beds are kept significantly cleaner consequently and we’ve been able to reduce the amount of sawdust used.”

The Discovery is charged up 12 times a day and costs approximately 28p per day to cover total power supply, he says. “We have control of the machine from an App which is down loaded on to all our phones - we have a four strong team here plus family members; it’s never run in to a problem, but it’s always there.”

Billy’s interest in robots doesn’t stop with the automated slurry scraper. He has also invested in the Lely Juno automatic feed pusher ensuring the TMR is continually in front of the cows, daily yields increased by an average two litres per cow, boosting total average to 11,200 litres.

“Furthermore, with the feed pusher’s running costs at approximately 40p/day to cover power supply, significant savings in fuel and depreciation are being made amounting to almost £20 per week. Added to that are labour savings. Add the benefits together and the system is scheduled to literally pay for itself within 12 months, he says.

That’s not all. “Whilst the cows are more content, the system has brought me peace of mind; pushing up feed was a routine job we used to carry out three times a day, nowadays the Juno makes sure feed is always available. It’s programmed to push the TMR diet in to the feed trough 12 times a day, 24/7, 365 days of the year. I can leave the farm knowing the job is guaranteed done, and that’s something I can’t put a figure on.”

He adds: “There’s also the bonus of the two robots operating in the same shed, it means we can depend on two essential routine jobs getting automatically done, whilst reducing the labour requirement.”