Dairy farmers will be able to reduce feed costs, improve cow health and welfare and make further business efficiencies by capturing and analysing big data at their fingertips, thanks to Lely’s new farm management application.

Called Horizon and scheduled to replace Lely’s current T4C software over the coming years, the new system offers various new modules which take herd management to a new level including Bimodality and Concentrate Optimiser, according to Lely’s Andy Paine.

“Bimodality is a brand-new function which optimises pre-milking treatment and avoids teat end damage and associated cell count issues which are a common symptom of cows being over milked early on in the milking process,” he explained.

“The brushes on each Lely robot have an important role to play beyond simply cleaning the teats. They act to stimulate milk let down, with some cows requiring more brushing to reach optimum milk flow. Big data analysis allows us to increase brushing for cows which would benefit from extra stimulation, and reduce it for cows who require less stimulation."

He added that sufficient pre-treatment results in the optimal release of oxytocin – the milk letdown hormone – and a normal, constant milk flow profile. In contrast, in the event of a cow displaying insufficient stimulation, milk flow is reduced shortly after the teat cups are attached – known as a biomodal milk flow profile, resulting in too much vacuum pressure in the liner which in turn can cause teat sinus damage pre-disposing the teat to mastitis.

Horizon’s Biomodality module adapts the level of pre-milking stimulation making sure the brush settings are sufficiently stimulating for each individual cow and consequently improve each cow’s welfare.

Biomodality also the offers potential for milking time saving, and in turn helps contribute to additional robot capacity. For example, reducing average box time by 30 seconds per cow per milking could create more than half an hour of additional free time per robot per day.

Concentrate Optimiser, the second new module, provides farmers with the opportunity to move from the current accepted strategy of feeding the herd to yield to feeding to economic output on an individual cow basis.

“Concentrate Optimiser manages concentrate fed in the robot by focusing on each individual cow’s response to the concentrates she is fed. By taking in to account factors such as milk price and milk yield, it constantly re-evaluates the economic performance of each individual cow. Doing so enables customers to feed each cow for greatest efficiency, which subsequently optimises profit per cow,” Andy explained.

“Farmers who have so far trialled the programme have been able to reduce concentrate use to around 0.32kg per litre, well below the UK average of 0.35kg for a 10,000 litre herd. That reduced concentrate useage can be worth as much as £4000 per robot per year, a figure contributing to levelling the forecast hike in feed prices this coming season,” he added.