Farmer/owner: Steven Black
Farm location: Thornhill, Stirling
Farm name: Norrieston Farm
Herd: 100 cows
Milking system: Two Fullwood M2erlin robots
Date of installation: July 2015
For the Black family of Norrieston Farm near Stirling, the switch from a conventional milking parlour to a fully automated system has resulted in increased milk output and improved cow welfare, and also to a more manageable workload on the 450-acre mixed farm.
Steven runs the farm with his nephew, Craig, who is providing full time assistance until Steven’s son, Gregor – currently working in New Zealand on a gap year – returns to the family farm to begin what he hopes will be a long-term career in Scottish agriculture.
“With no additional staff it was getting progressively harder to manage the herd,” Steven explains. “It was taking four hours a day to milk.” The farm’s conventional parlour – a 6×6 herringbone configuration – was installed in 1978, but had been upgraded over the years with ACRs and in-parlour feeders. “Even so, it was far too labour intensive and, without modern facilities such as milk meters and cow pedometers, it was limiting our ability to manage the herd effectively,” Steven adds.
The Black’s soon came to the conclusion that robots were the best solution to their predicament. “We knew robots would allow the cows to produce more milk and release us from the time-consuming milking routine”.
Fullwood’s M2erlin robot was launched at just the right time for the Blacks as it’s unique twin-exit gate design meant that it could fulfil a dual role as milking machine and segregation gate. “The M2’s ability to divert cows into a separate holding area meant we didn’t need to install standalone segregation gates or races”.
The two M2erlin units were installed by local Fullwood dealers, McCaskie Agriculture in Stirling, with the first cows being milked robotically in July 2015.
As well as increasing the frequency of milkings, the robots have also enabled the Blacks to introduce a more targeted feeding regime. “We’re able to feed each cow much more accurately and as a result, milk yields have increased.”