Farmer/owner: Adrian and David Robinson
Farm location: Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire
Farm name: Mawley Town Farm
Herd: 315 Holsteins
Milking system: Five Merlin Mark 2 robots
Date of installation: November 2008
After moving from Northern Ireland in 1978, Adrian and his father, David, milked with a 10/20 herringbone parlour, followed in 1991 by a Fullwood 24 point Tribone, which became too small for their needs. Adrian comments “As our herd size increased we found that milking was taking too long – about 8 hours per day, so we started to look for a system that was flexible and relieved business pressures.”
By spring 2008, after looking at various options including rotary parlours, Adrian and his family had decided to progress with automatic milking. Adrian states “Robots, we concluded, would give us more free time to concentrate on other aspects of cow welfare and give us flexibility”. He added “we researched the market thoroughly and opted for the Fullwood Merlin unit. After all we have been using their milking technology successfully for over 18 years. A trip to the Fullwood factory in Ellesmere, Shropshire helped us to make our decision to invest in 4 Merlins. We were given advice on the best possible layout and plans were drawn up.”
The initial investment and quantity of four Merlins was chosen to cater for the size of the herd plus a predicted increased milk yield. The Merlins were also chosen to provide more time for cow welfare and for other areas of the farm. The farm staff also wanted more variation in their workload and a better environment in which to work has become a benefit in kind.
Due to the success of the original four robots, a fifth Merlin was installed last year to maximise the usage of housing space and to help provide the milk yields which became higher than first expected.
Simply, Adrian and his family are thrilled to now have five Merlins milking their herd. Adrian felt his cows were underperforming in their former Tribone parlour and has been proved correct as better management has increased annual milk yields from 8,500 litres to 10,000 litres per cow; with the daily yield per cow increasing from 27 to 35 litres.
Adrian, his family and staff, believe that animal health has been the greatest improvement since having the Merlin machines. Time not spent in the parlour can be used to look after the herd in detail to keep them healthy and most productive. Adrian and his herdsmen carry out two inspections daily whilst the Crystal herd management software also highlights any potential problems for each individual cow.
The herd are housed during winter months but lower yielders are allowed to roam in a loafing paddock for 12 hours a day in the summer season with the high yielders getting an opportunity to stretch their legs in the morning and evening; though not all of the cows choose to venture outside.
In terms of feed, the cows are given a Partly Mixed Ration supplemented with a maximum of 3.5kg per visit to the Merlin robot based on each cow’s milk production. Adrian concludes, “The cows are happy and healthier, plus the staff and I are happy with our flexible and varied work routine. Having our Merlin robots was definitely the right decision!”