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incorporating TopGEA

Living your life to the full with GEA

engineering for a better world

Issue 2

GEA Farm Technologies

Robots land in Scotland

Robots land in Scotland The MIone robotic milking system has well and truly landed in Scotland, with GEA Farm Technologies dealers Dunglinsons and DairyFlow installing the first couple of systems in the country, in Canonbie and Strathaven respectively.

Above: The MIone in action at Harelawhole

The first to be commissioned was in January at Harelawhole, Canonbie and we caught up with the proud owner Mr Imrie to find out how things are going and what prompted his investment in robots. Mr Imrie said: “We began looking into robots three years ago. We want to increase our herd of Friesians from 110 to 150. Our existing 12/12 herringbone had been on the farm 45 years, and this and the shed just weren’t big enough to cope with our future plans. The layout of the farm also makes grazing difficult so housing all year round seemed a viable

option. In addition we’re finding getting good, regular labour to be a major problem. So taking all these factors into consideration investing in robots seemed like a logical move. “Deciding to move to robots was very much a family decision. Even though my dad isn’t able to do as much on the farm as he’d like to he is very much a large part of the business. Fortunately my wife Emma is a vet so she looked at robots from a cow health and welfare side of things which is of paramount importance to us. “We’ve worked with GEA authorised dealer Dunglinsons for

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decades and heard that the MIone was working well in the UK so we visited the farm in Devon plus another four farms in Holland. Having recently married and had a baby, Hannah, we needed to be sure, especially with the large investment costs, that we were

Above: Mr and Mrs Imrie and baby Hannah

Robots land in Scotland

over the years. I see this choosing the right robot “Even though the MIone has only been and system for our cows. as an investment for in a few weeks I’m able to leave the The visits allowed us to the next 20 years and farm an hour earlier than before” see the MIone in action whether my children on different farms, speak want to continue with the arrangements and will be in the to farmers about their business is up to them. shed all the time but they seem to experiences and view shed layouts But for now with the challenges be enjoying having more space and the dairy farming industry is facing, so we could see how best to use a bright and airy place to live! the space in our new building. it’s critical to be proactive in order We also saw how Friesians can be to remain viable - I don’t want to “Hannah will only ever see milking managed on a guided system, and get left behind and feel that the on the farm with robots but her it appeared to work extremely well MIone will help move me and the Grandad will make sure that she as they can be greedy and lazy business forward.” knows how milking has changed animals. “We used to spend 14 hours a day on the farm, three at each end of the day were just on milking, including wash down. I don’t expect to spend less time working on the farm but the 2-box MIone will allow me to be more flexible and do other jobs; for instance the farm office is based on a mezzanine above the robots with a viewing balcony so I can observe the cows and their natural behaviour, helping to pick up lameness etc. When Hannah is a bit older I hope I can do things like the school run as I won’t have to be back on the farm to milk. Even though the MIone has only been in a few weeks I’m able to leave the farm an hour earlier than before which means I can help with putting Hannah to bed. “There’ve been other noticeable differences too and I’m absolutely over the moon! The cows seem really calm and happy too, with increased milk yields and good SCC and bactoscans. It’s really remarkable how well they’ve adapted to their new surroundings. Not only have the cows got to get used to a new way of milking but they also have new living

GEA Farm Technologies GEA Farm Technologies | |33

Update from MIone user

Automatic milking system beats expectations

Above: Mr Bennett beside one of his 2-box MIone robots

Having been using the MIone for two months we caught up with Mr Bennett to see how he and the cows have adapted to robotic milking: Mr Bennett said: “We have had a good transition into robotic milking – the cows are happy and so are we! In effect we have two herds and one x 2-box MIone robots per herd. Each robot is milking 90 cows and one side is producing 30 litres and the second is producing 32 litres. Visiting times are getting better as the weeks go on and we are able to see the lactation curves improving from when we had the parlour. Since start-up we have gained 3 litres and 2 litres on one side or the other and overall seen a lift in milk yields. “One of my concerns when looking into automatic milking systems

was that herd health and quality of milk would drop, however I’ve been pleased to see that we’re maintaining good hygiene standards – cell counts are good and mastitis cases have dropped dramatically so things are moving in a positive direction. Udder health is also improving as we are not overmilking. “Father is still a part of the farm and he often comes and checks on the robots and cleans them down - he loves it! He as well as myself and the rest of the farm staff are also getting to grips with understanding the computer software and reading

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the information. It’s a steep learning curve but one we are all experiencing together and enjoying. “We lost two members of staff recently, for various reasons, so it’s a relief the robots are up and running as it means we can manage the farm without having to look for people to milk at the last minute. “Overall we are pleased with our investment and with our dealer RMS! They are keen to help with an “aim to please” attitude and we can’t fault them.”

Issue 2

Keeping cool when using robots

When planning your cooling for robots make sure you:

As well as preparing the shed and the cows for the arrival of a robotic milking system, you must also consider the way the milk will be cooled as it is very different to conventional milking.

1. Calculate your system’s hourly milk flow rates in litres/ /hour.

In a parlour, where batches of cows are milked, up to 1000-2000 litres of milk flow to the tank each hour.

2. Identify existing bulk tank operating parameters (How many litres required to start cooling?).

In a robot, approximately 7-8 cows per box are milked in an hour and only 80 litres of milk flow to the tank during this time.

3. Decide whether an ice builder, double bank pre-cooler or glycol chiller is required to immediately cool the milk.

Most cooling tanks do not start cooling until they are 5-10% full. This means the first milk from a robot after the tank has been emptied may sit uncooled for a prolonged period of time. It is possible for bactoscan values to double every hour when uncooled - this will be exacerbated by higher ambient temperatures in the summer - and so milk quality bonuses will be at risk.

4. Check tank washer function.

In the summer months the water used in pre-cooling systems may also be as high as ambient temperatures, therefore any pre-cooling benefits are negligible. Note: poor and ineffective cooling will have a significant effect on bactoscans and it’s often the cause of elevated results.

In This Issue


Robots and cooling

engineering for a better world


Guided cow traffic


Pre-selection vs free access


Financing MYone

 GEA Farm Technologies

Guided cow traffic

Benefits of guided cow traffic for you and your herd:

Benefits for you: •

Fewer cows will require fetching for milking (compared with up to 10% -15% with free cow traffic) as they always pass the milking area on the way to feeding.

More time can be spent managing the herd.

Problem cows can be easily separated from the rest of the herd without the need to enter the barn*.

You can be much more flexible with how you feed your cows. You are not tied to feeding large amounts of concentrate*.

Makes training heifers easier.

Increases the capacity of your system by reducing ‘refusals’ - refusals in a free access system are calculated as being up to 1 minute/cow/day. For a 120 cow herd this equates to 2 hours of robot downtime per day.

What is selectively guided cow traffic? Selectively guided cow traffic is simply the way the cow moves around the barn. In a typical herd we want the cow to be able to do four things: • Eat • Drink • Rest • Be milked. Because of these basic needs the barn is split into three key areas: • Feeding area • Rest area • Waiting area (in front of robots). Additional separation areas may be included for the diagnosis and treatment of cows requiring attention. The diagram shows the movement of cows that are due to milk and cows that are not due, or have just milked. It also shows how cows can be separated within the system. There are many different barn layouts that can accommodate the selectively guided cow traffic system. As shown below, every cow has access to feed all of the time. Water should also be available in all areas and never be restricted. But what is actually happening?

Helps with the identification of problem cows.

Can be fed a balanced ration throughout the lactation*.

Protects less dominant cows. Dominant cows cannot guard the robot (especially with guided exit).

Allows access to the feed fence all of the time.

Stops lazy cows from avoiding milking. Reduces the risk of cows drying themselves off.

*Fact sheets on separation, feeding and rumen acidosis are available on our website

Straw area

Separation area Not due to milk

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Improved health. Less risk of rumen acidosis*.

Waiting area

Milking area

Benefits for your herd:

Due to milk

Pre-selection vs free access

Scenario 1 - Cow is not due to milk In order to reach the feed area (from the rest area) the cow must pass through a pre-selection gate. At this point the computer determines whether or not she is due to milk. If she is not she is directed to the feed area. Once she has fed she can return to the rest area through one of the one-way gates. The cow is free to complete this cycle as many times as she likes during the day. Scenario 2 - Cow is due to milk As part of her normal feed-rest cycle the cow enters the pre-selection gate. In this instance enough time has elapsed since her last milking for her to be due again. Instead of letting the cow continue to the feed area the pre-selection gate sends her into the waiting area in front of the robot. Because she is hungry she is keen to go into the robot and eat her allocated amount of concentrate. Once she has been milked she is released from the robot back through the selection gate. As she has been milked the computer allows her through to the feed area. The period of standing in the feed area allows her teat ends to close naturally before she lies down.

Rest area

Feed area Flagged for separation

Pre-selection saves money and time compared with free access

Feeding Cow not due to be milked

Milking Cow due to be milked

A cow’s natural behaviour is to rest, milk and feed, visiting the feed area a minimum of 8 times a day. GEA Farm Technologies’ automatic milking system, MIone, employs semi-selective guided traffic that utilises this cow biorhythm through a pre-selection gate. A pre-selection gate allows cows to move from the resting area to the feeding area. Cows that require milking are guided to the milking centre and then to the feed area, whereas cows not due to be milked go straight to the feed area. The gate uses Auto ID to identify the cow and then the herd management software, such as DairyPlan C21, determines the


direction of the cow and moves the gate accordingly. Non return gates stop the cow from returning through the gate. Selection gates are also used to guide cows requiring attention to a separate area. Having these cows automatically segregated improves operator productivity, saving valuable time searching for and collecting cows, especially in large herds. Pre-selection also gives greater control over feeding so a feed cost saving over free access systems can be achieved by having a less expensive concentrate in the robot, whilst still maintaining a TMR or PMR diet.

GEA Farm Technologies | 3

Financing MYone Investment levels will vary significantly depending on individual farm set-up and it is important to assess what value you are getting for your money and if you feel it is the right investment. Once you have decided that robots are for you, ensure you prepare cost budgets of all aspects of the build and capital investment. When investing in robots there are often other costs such as upgrading your power supply, building a new shed and equipment to go in it such as cubicles, scrapers etc. It is important to find a company who understands that each farming business is different and understands your needs and requirements and will work with you to deliver the right finance solution.

GEA Farm Finance can help your business by:

Now is the time to invest in a new parlour

Understanding your challenges – by designing a solution based on detailed knowledge of your cash-flow issues and seasonal payment concerns.

Funding your farm assets such as an automatic robot or feeding system.

The annual investment allowance (AIA) for British companies was extended from £25,000 to £250,000 until the end of December 2014. However in the recent Budget the AIA has been increased to £500,000 until the end of 2015, after which the allowance will return to £25,000.

Putting you in control – flexible payment solutions can help put you in control of your cash flow.

Giving you flexible choices – GEA Farm Finance can offer a number of plans to suit your needs.

To find out more call

0845 266 6478

By having an in-depth understanding of your business, a good finance company will provide a solution that will overcome challenges you may face and help you focus on your job.


GEA Farm Technologies GEA Farm Technologies (UK) Ltd Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2LG Tel. 02476 692 333 Fax 02476 698 398

AIA provides 100 per cent tax relief on machinery or plant expenditure for farmers, so if you are looking to invest in a new parlour, now is the time to do so. Find out more at

Time to think about feeding

Time to think about feeding

On the 29th January the first UK commercial Mullerup automatic feeding system was commissioned at Partridge Farms in Devon. Mr Partridge told MYone magazine how the system, which consists of a Mix and Carry Feeder and an MVM Mixer, has made a difference to the farm, milk output and the well-being of the cows so far.

Above: The GEA Mullerup Mix and Carry feeder

Feeding and nutrition are two of the most important factors in efficient dairy production. Representing the highest cost in producing a litre of milk, feeding and nutrition affects herd health which ultimately impacts on yields. When a cow eats, their rumen pH decreases – according to research by Krause et al. 2002, feeding cows twice a day means a cow’s pH value decreases to such an extent that there’s a risk of rumen acidosis. The same research also shows that frequent feeding results in a steadier rumen pH which in turn leads to a healthier rumen and eventually improved milk production. In addition to steadier rumen pH levels, feeding more frequently ensures that the cows become more active and visit the feed fence more often, meaning that they consume smaller rations but at multiple times. This stimulates rumination and the production of saliva.

Mr Partridge said: “The feeding routine prior to the automatic feeding system involved my son Clive and grandson Luke running the feed down the shed with a tractor once a day – usually in the morning. We now feed the cows ten times a day with a smaller ration and we are seeing the benefits already. Cows are content and yields are up by 14%. “As part of our investment on the farm in terms of MIone robots and the Mullerup feeding, we built a new shed. We have saved money by not having to have an aisle wide enough to drive a tractor down, plus the system is extremely quiet and so the cows aren’t disturbed like before.” Mr Partridge is picking up how to use the Mullerup feeding software easily so he can get the most out of the system. He finished by saying “I’m looking forward to getting our two x 3-box MIone robots up and running to see if we can get even better results in terms of milk yield and herd health.”

The saliva production will in turn lead to a reduced pH value in the rumen. Eventually the steadier rumen pH will result in a more efficient feed conversion ratio. Because automatic feeding systems mix and distribute the feed 24 hours a day, they save time on the farm that can be used to focus on other areas such as herd health. Feeding can be organised into groups and the system programmed to ensure the cows get the correct feed for their group. They also require minimum maintenance.

Above: Mr Partridge demonstrated the Mullerup feeding software to us

GEA Farm Technologies GEA Farm Technologies | |53

Grant aids robot project

Grant aids robot project By Mike Green, British Dairying Ben Keedwell was at a crossroads in 2012. He either had to invest in his dairy business or look for other alternative opportunities. After a lot of research, planning, hard work and discussions with bankers and various people involved in the dairy industry he is now building a new robotic milking unit for 180 cows.

Above: The new shed layout of Regilbury Farm, showcasing the location of the 3-box MIone along with cow flow from the resting area to the milking area and/or the feeding area

Ben Keedwell currently milks 75 cows at Regilbury Farm, just south of Bristol, with the help of his father and one farm worker. They own 100 acres and rent a further 170 acres away from the unit. Cows are housed in a 60 cubicle shed for milkers and two loose housed sheds for dry cows and low yielders. Cows are grazed in the summer. Ben is 36 and his 73 year-old father David has gradually handed over

more and more responsibility to him to run the family business. “As my father handed the business over to me and my responsibilities grew I have enjoyed working on the farm much more,” says Ben. “The farm must make a healthy profit of £50,000 to £100,000 to be reinvested in the business and protect against years like 2012/13. We have a ‘middle of the road’ system so I had to consider other options, all of which seemed very

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expensive.” A spring calving grassland based system was considered but discounted because the farm lies on heavy land and there are limited acres around the unit. “We have bred high PLI Holstein cows and they do not like to get their feet muddy and it would mean a major change in cows and the style of farming,” says Ben. The other option was to house

Grant aids robot project

the cows all year and milk cows to their genetic potential of 9,500 to 10,000 litres.

to all the robot manufacturers and drew up detailed budgets for the project.

“I had to show that the project “I started to look at robots about was viable and that eight years ago it would not go but my reasons for ahead without grant doing it have now aid,” says Ben. “We changed,” explains needed a detailed Ben. “Originally it business plan for was about not being ourselves and for the tied to the farm. application. For this Now my motivation we budgeted cow has changed. I want yields of 9,500 litres to give more time to and a milk price of my cows and look 29 pence a litre.” after them better. I Above: Ben Keedwell want them in premier Ben drew up budgets conditions so they for a 120-cow are healthy, happy cows. If I am conventional unit, a 120-cow not spending as much time in the unit with two robots and a 180parlour pit I can deal with problems cow unit with three robots. “The more quickly.” budgets showed that if we stayed where we were we would start to In April 2012 Ben went to a lose money. Putting in two robots ‘Planning for Robots’ seminar was viable and the least risky organised by dairy consultant Mike option but long term would be less Hobbis in Gloucestershire. “I had sustainable. Putting in three robots heard an RDPE Rural Economy was higher risk but putting on 60 Grant could be a possibility for extra cows spread the costs and putting in robots under the Animal made the unit more profitable.” Health and Welfare element. At the seminar I learnt more about The plan now is to build a new the grant scheme and that the unit with 166 cubicles next to deadline for applications was only an old chicken shed which will two weeks away,” says Ben. “I have calving boxes installed and was thirsty for information and be converted to house dry and knowledge at the time. The hospital cows. Ben has opted for speakers at the seminar were all GEA Farm Technologies’ MIone very interesting and I enjoyed the system with three boxes and one farm visit. The seminar gave me robotic arm to be installed by the confidence to go ahead with RMS Devizes. New slurry storage robots and I put in an application facilities will also be installed. for a grant.” Ben has budgeted a total of £420,000 plus a grant of £112,000 He got through this first stage and and he hopes to have the new unit was invited by Defra to submit a ready for the cows by September. detailed application. So Ben spoke

Above: Mike Hobbis

Planning for Robots To help choose the right system for your farming business then the Planning for Robots seminar, organised by Healthy Cows, is for you. Designed to help you make the right decision, the course programme covers building design and conversion for robots, cow traffic flow (free access, guided or routed), feeding strategies and grazing systems as well as mastitis control and foot care in robotic systems. The course ends with a visit to a robotic dairy farm. The seminars are held across the UK on three dates per year and is limited to 40 farmers. Find out more at or phone Mike Hobbis on 07850 450743.

GEA Farm Technologies GEA Farm Technologies | |73

Multibox concept suitable for all herd sizes with the opportunity for modular expansion

Milk centre concept “clean side” work efficiency in a single location

Barn planning and layout for superior cow flow and maximum work efficiency

Guided cow traffic to guide cows quietly into the milking stall and through the exit, separating them for special attention as required

Optimising feeding ensures optimum milk yield, feed efficiency and cow health plus considerable savings

Teat preparation is completed after the attachment of the teat cup, followed by pre-milking stimulation, milking and removal

Manual milking override available when required, so no cow need go unmilked • ilk

Makes money • Makes life easier • Makes sense • MIone • Makes milk • Makes more milk • Makes money • Makes lif


The strength of GEA Farm Technologies with their Total Solutions for all dairy farmers


User advice and ongoing support from your local dealer and from GEA Farm Technologies

s more milk • Makes money • Makes life easier • Makes sense • MIone • Makes milk • Makes more


a ke

• Makes sense • MIone • Makes milk • Makes more milk • Makes money • Makes life easier • Ma ke


e • MIone • Makes milk • Makes more milk • Makes money • Makes life easier • Makes sense • MIone • Makes milk en s • ss


Would you like to find out more? Visit our website dedicated to automatic dairy farming technology:

GEA Farm Technologies GEA Farm Technologies (UK) Ltd Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2LG Tel. 02476 692 333 Fax 02476 698 398

MYone incorporating TopGEA Issue 2  

MYone is the publication for the dairy farming industry where you can find out about robotic milking machines and other automated livestock...

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