A 200-head dairy farm on the Devon/Cornwall border will open its gates to show fellow dairy farmers how installing milking robots had helped create a future for the family and the herd.

Newlands Farm is owned by Robert and Elizabeth Haworth, but managed by their daughter, Sarah and partner, David Luxton. They introduced a DeLaval robotic milking system in 2018.

“Sarah and I had to make a big decision about the future of the herd and the dairy. We knew we needed to invest and robots offered us an opportunity to future proof the farm,” said Mr Luxton.

Three DeLaval VMS V300 milking robots were installed on the farm in a newly constructed shed designed for the 200 pedigree Holstein herd.

“We opted for a guided cow traffic system which gives our cows the choice of when to rest, feed and visit the robots to be milked. It has also given us the opportunity to spend more time managing the farm and its future,” he said.

The catalyst for the 'big' decision, was that the previous 16:16 parlour was deteriorating and the couple worked long hours milking and maintaining the equipment. “Our twins were born five years ago. We knew something had to change if we were going to be parents and dairy farmers. It was a case of change the parlour or look at more drastic measures,” explained Mr Luxton.

The cows pass through the guided traffic system, which includes a series of gates and automated checks, up to 16 times. However, each cow will only gain milking permission an average of 2.5 times per day depending on individual yield and stage of lactation.

Each cow is monitored using DeLaval farm management software, DelPro, that gives David a performance dashboard on his PC and his phone. The frequency each cow is milked, the yield and any health problems are all available remotely. “Even if I am away, I know exactly what is happening. I can interpret the data provided by the robots to manage every cow individually,” he said.

They operate a multi-cut silage system and in 2019 was able to make five cuts. His silage was analysed boasting an ME of 11.5MJ per kg of DM with a D-value of 70 and 20% protein. This helps the herd to deliver milk with at least 4.2% BF and 3.2% P.

In the previous parlour system, the cows yielded an average of 31 litres per head, which has increased to 33.5 litres – that's an additional 430 litres every day in the six months the robotic system has been in place.