What we have learned so far.
More work than you realise.
Cows are easyer to train than heifers, as they have a desire to be milking and
want to eat the feed.
Not easy to find people who can fit in without lots of training, as it is different
way of farming, with someone always on Call, Morning , Day and night shifts,
It takes a while to train cows, even longer to train people, contractors & even
ourselves. It is so different, there are no real guidelines. They are getting
It takes as much labour as a normal dairy farm – 1 labour unit to 150 cows yet
we will achieve over 100,000 Kg MS per labour unit.
(Average would be approx 60,000)
We are learning all the time & have to keep tweaking the system and how we
do things. It will take a couple of seasons to work out the do’s and don’ts.
This is the largest grazing (free range) robotic farm with high producing
cows – there is very little information out there to assist us.
Almost need 24 hour coverage to stop alarm call outs / cow build up through
graze way gates / new cow or heifer training to fit in when cows are at
maximum levels. When there is a problem, and no one is there to fix, the
problem can compound very quickly, and there isnt alarms for everything.
Not all cows fit robots, looking at milking speed - milk let down, for efficent
use of robot time, I can milk 2 or 3 fast milking cows, verse a slow milking cow,
this is something to look at for the future and owanting to breed a better cow.
John Roadley once said “ Automation only works when someone is watching it –
We have found this to be true.
Is it profitable? This is still “guess work” Lely say it is profitable, yet there
are no real answers as yet. We need to sort out numbers! Most robot farmers
have other dairy farms, to take cows from and send cows back to that do not
fit! It would be hard to start up totally with no other dairy as a back up. We
milked cows for 4 months through other sheds while waiting for start-up.
This is still a new venture with out-comes yet to be found. By 2015 we will
know much much more than now.
The goal is that in 2020 this will be a great way to run a dairy farm for people,
cows & production.
We have taken a below average farm and have re-created it to be a hight
producing farm with a new way of farming that people can learn from.
There will be lots to learn, a lot learnt and taken up by the industry and we are
willing to share what we are learning as the industry changes.
Our whole life, we have taken on challenges – coming to a new country, milking
town supply in South Auckland, 50/50 sharemilking in Northland & Hauraki
Plains, Owning & farming 40 hectare farm, Selling up to return to sharemilking
for Tasman Agriculture aiming to do 1,000MS per ha & achieving 1380MS per
ha in Canterbury, Converting a dry land dairy farm doing over 2,000MS per ha.
Now running with the help of our daughter, equity partners, and sharemilkers,
multiple irrigated farms that have achieved 2300MS per ha.
We may not always be the most profitable per hectare or per kilo milk solids,
but the business has been growing at 20% per year compounding. Now is the
time that the next generation take up the opportunities to farm their way in