in General June 9, 2022
The Rennie family from Brocklehill Farm at Annbank, Ayr, hosted a successful Robotic Showcase on behalf of Fullwoodhead Dairy Supplies Ltd, on Wednesday 8th June 2022.This Open Day allowed other farmers to not only look at, see in action and get more information on the two DeLaval VMS V310 robotic milkers, but also additional robotic equipment including Optiduo feed refresher, Robotic Scraper 450, DeLaval DX3S Milk Silo, DeLaval Swinging Cow Brush SCB3, as well as HIK Vision CCTV.
The day was a great success, and after a long, unsettled spell for first cut silage, there was a good turnout. As well as an in-depth look at the robots, there was a prize draw made from everyone who attended with prizes from DeLaval, Fullwoodhead Dairy Supplies Ltd, Advanced Nutrition, Semex, Cogent and Hamilton Brothers.Renowned for their Ayrshire breeding the Rennie family first moved towards Holstein bloodlines 20 years ago and now have a mixed herd of Ayrshire, Red and White and Black and White Holsteins.
“Our parlour was 18 years old, so we knew we were going to have to make an investment of some sort. We looked at all sorts of options, but robots were the obvious choice for us,” said Shaun, who was milking 180 head twice daily through the parlour.
While still milking 100 low yielders through the parlour twice a day, the 121 high yielders are currently visiting more often through the DeLaval VMS V310 robots.
“We wanted to get our high yielders on to the system first to see how they benefitted when we have just started with two robots but we are looking at installing another two robots in the foreseeable future when we’ll also increase herd numbers for a more viable enterprise,” added Shaun.
“The team of engineers from Fullwoodhead Dairy Supplies Ltd worked hard to install the new robots quickly and efficiently. It is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the Rennie family and the nature of the cows, how well they have both settled into the new system. I’d like to thank the Rennie’s for using Fullwoodhead Dairy Supplies Ltd and we look forward to supporting them in the future,” said Scott Wilson, Director at Fullwoodhead Dairy Supplies Ltd.
Brocklehill Farm is situated around 10 minutes from Fullwoodhead Dairy Supplies Ltd’s main depot at Ayr Market; this along with their excellent relationship with the business was a key deciding factor for the Rennie’s.
Average milk yields have increased to 38kg a day, in comparison to 31kg a day in the parlour, at 4.4BF% and 3.3P%.
“Quality and quantity are both hugely important to us, we get paid a bonus for BF and P, so it is crucial that we continue to keep them high,” said Keith adding that all milk is sold on contract to Caledonian Cheese.
Diets are worked out alongside Advanced Ruminant nutritionist, Eoghan Mullery, with cows fed an 8kg Advanced Robot nut in the robot and a basic robot blend from For Farmers, alongside their first cut of silage.
Just two cuts of silage are taken in the spring – 250 acres first cut and a further 180 acres of second cut for young stock and low yielding cows.
“To get the litres you need to have good forage and a well-balanced diet for the cows, with cow health being a key indicator of that,” added Shaun, who vaccinates the herd for BVD and IBR as well as routine testing Johnes and a four-year TB cycle.
At the same time as the robots many other adaptions to the shed were made to maximise the productivity of milk throughout the herd.
A 20,000 litre DeLaval DX3S Milk Silo was installed along with three DeLaval fans in the shed to help with the cow comfort to regulate the air in the summer and reduce flies.
Two automatic foot baths at the exit of each robot have also been installed alongside a DeLaval RS450 robotic scraper for cleaning the slats and two DeLaval Swinging Cow Brushes. The family’s commitment to cow comfort has transformed the environment in the shed, with cows now kept fuller, cleaner, happier and more productive.
“Everything is to help with cow comfort because a happy cow is a profitable cow in our eyes, and the cows have never looked better,” said Shaun, with a further investment in a DeLaval OptiDuo robotic feed refresher which follows an induction line around the shed, pushing up and refreshing the feed in front of the cows which helps reduce sorting and increases feed intakes. The Optiduo has 10 runs a day up and down the feed passage.
“This is keeping the feed as fresh as possible for the cows ensuring high cow welfare. The more intake the cows get, the more they visit the robots, which results in an increase in production,” added Shaun.
With cow health a high priority the Rennie’s made some huge changes to their housing system in 2014.
Originally running an old style, of two self-fed pits in the middle of the shed, this was knocked down and the shed was extended 30 feet to install cubicles.
Cubicles are lined with mattresses to ensure cow comfort with a dusting of sawdust to keep the cows clean and healthy.
“Cows now lie for longer and are cleaner with lower cell counts. Cow comfort is the number one game as it is a huge influencer on milk.” commented Shaun.
A high quality of care has to continue through to calving which takes place all year round at Brocklehill. Cows move to straw bedded courts just before they are due, and heifers join the milking herd at two years of age.
Everything gets two chances of sexed semen, after which cows are AI’d to beef sires, with the resultant beef calves sold at two months of age through Ayr Auction Market.
“We were sick of getting bull calves that were not worth anything – the idea now is that every calf is worth something,” said Shaun, who on average sells five or six beef calves a month.
Dairy farming takes up a huge amount of everyone’s time, but the family also enjoys exhibiting in the show ring when they have a spare minute. They can’t however, attend as many shows as they used to with just three family members working at home.
Instead, they concentrate on UK Dairy Expo and Agri-Scot along with their local shows. One of their biggest achievements was further afield, winning the Ayrshire championship at the Royal Show on no fewer than five occasions as well as being former Gold Cup winners.
“We do enjoy showing, but we also enjoy what we do on the farm. Working with the cows is what we all enjoy most which is why we were confident robotic milking was the right investment for the future of our herd.
“Dairy farming is looking a bit brighter now, the industry is more positive as a whole, hopefully this will continue and help to ensure the future is strong for everyone.” concluded the Rennie family.
Livestock: 250 cows including dry cows with a mixture between Holstein and Ayrshires.
Acreage: 340 owned and 40 rented.
Involved: Very much a family run business of Keith, Irene, and their son Shaun.
On the spot questions
Best advice? Do what you enjoy, and what you think is best for you.
Best investment? Robots. It has been easier than expected we can’t believe how quickly they have settled in.
Achievements? The family is proudest of the progression of the farm & herd since their first modernising step in 2014.
Biggest advantages of the robots for you?
Maximising the potential of the cows, with more flexible working hours.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Plans for a further two Robots and other improvements around the farm.