Farmer/owner: Anthony & Stephen Bolland
Farm location: Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
Farm name: Duke of Devonshire Estate
Herd: 150 Holsteins
Milking system: 20:20 Herringbone Parlour
Date of installation: May 2012
Anthony Bolland farms with his son, Stephen, at Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales where they run a 240 acre tenanted farm on the Duke of Devonshire Estate. They are currently milking a herd of 150 commercial black and white cows, with 80 followers and a flock of 240 sheep.
Prior to Stephen’s return to the family-run farm in 2010, the dairy herd numbered 110 cows. But, upon Stephen’s inclusion into the business, cow numbers were increased to 130 to lift milk output and overall productivity.
“We wanted to expand the herd to make the business more viable for two generations of the family,” Anthony explains. “But more cows meant more time spent in the farm’s old parlour.”
In those days, the cows were milked through a Fullwood 12:12 herringbone parlour which was originally installed in 1975. “The parlour still worked well,” Anthony continues, “but it was taking 2.5 hours to do each milking. With more cows coming into the herd we were spending far too long in the parlour at the expense of other key jobs such as focusing on fertility and maximising productivity.”
The old parlour was also a very basic set-up with no automation and no way of monitoring individual cow performance.
With Stephen keen to carve a long career for himself in milk production, the family therefore decided to invest in new milking facilities, with the specific goal of reducing milking times.
“We looked at a number of makes and configurations of parlours, including various swingover layouts,” Stephen explains, “but decided to opt for a double-sided herringbone system because that’s what we’re used to. The old parlour had served us well, despite being out-dated, so we saw no reason to over-complicate things.”
The new parlour, a Fullwood 20:20 direct to line herringbone with 50 degree stalls, was installed by Harry Travis Ltd of Otley and commissioned in May 2012.
“We opted for a 50 degree parlour because the cows have more room and stand a lot better than in a traditional 32 degree setup,” Anthony explains. “The 50 degree system also takes up less space resulting in less walking up and down the pit during milking.”
The Bollands worked closely with Tony Friend of Harry Travis Ltd who advised them on which type of parlour would best suit their needs. “We worked closely with Anthony and Stephen to make sure they chose the right parlour layout and design for their buildings to ensure smooth cow flow and a comfortable working environment,” Tony describes. “We looked at various options and eventually came up with a solution that created the ideal layout for their herd.”
The new parlour features a range of facilities that the old parlour was lacking, including automatic segregation gates, pedometers, in-line conductivity meters and Fullwood’s Crystal herd management software system.
“We don’t milk the cows any differently,” Anthony explains, “but we have changed the way we manage the herd. Each day we look at the computer screen to see which cows are bulling and which cows need drying off. Our herd management and fertility spotting is more accurate and we have seen a steady improvement in the herd’s average calving index.
“We are also working more efficiently, with facilities such as the segregation gates making it possible for one person to milk the cows without having to leave the parlour pit. The new Fullclean washing system also reduces the daily workload as it makes cleaning the plant a one-button routine instead of having to manually open and close an array of valves and pipework.
“The result is that we are now milking 40 more cows and saving almost an hour per milking. That’s a huge amount of time saved and more than justifies our decision to invest. It also allows us to catch up on other jobs away from the parlour.”
Anthony and Stephen have also seen a number of additional benefits since they started milking through the new parlour. “The shorter milking routine means the cows are standing in the collecting yard for less time which has reduced bullying within the herd and reduced lameness.”
Meanwhile, the in-line conductivity meters have helped the Bollands to reduce the incidence and severity of mastitis by spotting any new cases during the early stages. “We’re still getting to grips with all the data available,” Anthony remarks, “but it’s already obvious that the Crystal software is a powerful herd management tool.
“As a small family-run business, we already knew each cow individually, but the new system has given us an even greater insight in each cow’s individual performance and health status. We’re confident that we now have the right tools in place to improve yields and to get the most out of the cows.”