Farmer/owner: Martyn Jennings
Farm location: Cowling, North Yorkshire
Farm name: Lower Lane Ends Farm
Herd: 185 Fresians
Milking system: Three Fullwood Merlins
Date of installation: April 2013
Milk yields at Martyn Jennings’ North Yorkshire dairy farm have increased by 27% since the herd switched from conventional to robotic milking. Cow health is also much improved, with less lameness, fewer cases of mastitis and improved fertility among the main benefits seen to date.
Martyn Jennings took the over the dairy farm at Lower Lane Ends in Cowling from his father, Ralph, and uncle in 2007. At the time, the commercial herd of 100 black and white cows was being milked through an 8:16 Fullwood herringbone, originally installed in 1978. The parlour had been upgraded with ACRs and milk meters, but by the time Martyn had expanded the herd to 150 cows at the beginning of 2013, each milking was taking 3.5 hours to complete.
Robots offered the ideal solution, both physically and financially. Martyn says “I worked out I’d need three robots and that they’d pay for themselves within 10 years”.
Three Fullwood Merlin robots were installed in April 2013: two robots serve the main herd in one cubicle house, with a third machine milking the heifers in a separate building. “The herd was housed for the previous two summers due to poor weather and a lack of grass for grazing,” Martyn continues. “That helped them get used to being housed all year round and paved the way for their new regime. Even so, the transfer across to the robots was a lot easier than we thought it would be.”
The robots were installed by James Holding Dairy Engineering who sent a team of five staff to assist with the switch-on. “They stayed on site and were on hand 24 hours a day to keep the cows moving through the robots,” Martyn describes.
Twelve months after the robots were installed, milk yields at Lower Lane Ends had increased from 7,500 kg to 9,500 kg per cow – an increase of 27%. “We’ve also seen fewer cases of mastitis because the robots milk each quarter individually and we’re seeing more heats thanks to the pedometers which constantly measure activity levels.”
“My end goal is to reach 240 cows with 200 in milk all year. Installing a fourth robot will reduce the workload on the original machines and allow the number of milkings to return to three times per day. I calculated that a fourth machine will pay for itself in next to no time, so it was the obvious thing for us to do.”