NEIL Brough says swapping a herringbone parlour for four Lely A4 milking robots has enabled him to successfully grow the business, build his family’s pedigree Holstein herd to 340 cows and secure the farm’s future.

“We could never have achieved the current operating level in the old parlour; investing in the robots, extending an existing shed and building new accommodation with 240 cubicles has taken us a million miles from where we were,” he explains.

“Production has increased 36% to an average 12,000 litres whilst solids have been maintained at 4.1% butterfat and 3.4% protein. Calving Index has fallen from 420 to 400 days, the herd’s preg rate has improved from 20% to 26%, whilst we’ve seen a 50% reduction mastitis incidence.

“What’s more the farm is a lot more profitable, even though the milk price has fluctuated between 16ppl and 33ppl since 2015 when we installed the A4 milking robots,” says Neil who farms the 560 acre based unit near Dalston, Cumbria with his father, Stephen and uncle, Richard.

“We’re now able to manage the entire herd with just three labour units each working a 12-hour day. We end up not so tired as previously when we worked a lot more hours with half the herd size. It would have been challenging to find the right staff to milk more cows, never mind covering the cost.

“Furthermore, the robots have given us that flexibility to actually manage the cows. Now we’ve time to step back and objectively look at what’s going on whereas previously we were constantly chasing our tails.

"Equally, we’re also armed with real time performance data from the Lely T4C software. We spend 60 minutes a day checking for collect cows and ill cows If there are issues then I’m able to easily locate and manage from my Lely phone App,” he explains.

“The system allows the cows to make their own choices when to milk, eat and lie down which makes for a low stress environment which in turn has improved health and fertility.

"Reduced pressure on the udder and milk leakage has led to a 50% reduction in mastitis incidence along with reduced antibiotic usage, whilst the robot is designed to keep teat contamination to an absolute minimum.

"Brushes clean both the teats and under the udder, each quarter is individually milked out and the clusters steam cleaned after every milking.

“Why did I choose Lely? Well the company has the longest track record and experience in robotic technology with their trained back-up team of service engineers.

"Lely keeps updating things; we’ve now Horizon the new software platform to look forward to installing to further help to improve the herd’s efficiency.”

Neil adds: “Going forward and we feel the robots are better equipping us, we’ve that essential critical mass of cows, we’re now more in control of the business, and we’ve quality time both for the cows as well as my young family.”

Herd performance benefits · 36% production increase to 12,000 litres, three visits · Solids maintained 4.1% butterfat and 3.4% protein · Calving Index 420 to 400 days · 20% to 26% preg rate improvement · 50% reduction mastitis incidence

· If you’d like to know more about turning the page - from parlour to robots, then call in to Lely Center Longtown’s stand at the Westmorland County Show September 8 and 9.