A Lancashire family has made a major commitment to its future in dairy farming by installing a 54-point rotary and extending the housing. Jeremy Hunt reports.
William Hartley and sons Steven and Richard have not only almost doubled the size of their herd over the last 18 months but have installed a 54-point rotary parlour as the centre piece of an impressive new milking and housing system.
The significant investment has created an innovative and inspirational dairy unit that has ‘geared-up’ this family farm to the high specification required for today’s efficient milk production.
“We haven’t cut corners. Once the decision was made we wanted to do things properly and to a high standard,” says William.
Two years ago the original intention was to extend the existing 18-swingover parlour which was then milking about 220 cows.
But when the Hartleys were asked the question ‘if you just extend the parlour won’t you be in exactly the same place in five years’ time?’, the seed was sown to consider a much bigger upgrade and lay a firm foundation for future largescale milk production at the family’s Greenberfield Farm, Barnoldswick.
“We started to think about the cost of extending the parlour and then looked at some rotary systems milking 250 cows an hour. It wasn’t just the speed of milking but the quality of the environment provided for the cows and the operators. We did the costings and the decision was made,” says William.
Home-bred heifers had been retained to start lifting herd numbers, and after 18 months of construction work on the new set-up, the first cows were milked in the new rotary on July 1 last year.
But the installation which would cut their milking time by half – and now enables two operators to milk 350 cows in about one-anda- half hours – is only part of the story.
The 54-point rotary parlour is situated at one end of the vast housing space.
Calving pens are also situated in the same building at Greenberfield Farm.
The rotary parlour is situated at one end of the vast housing space which has been created to provide a collecting yard big enough to contain the entire herd, a new block of 120 cubicles, a separate double bank of 24 cow cubicles, calving pens and an impressive cow handling set-up. In addition, the new build includes a dairy to house the 20,200-litre capacity milk tank as well as farm offices.
The main building which houses the parlour and collecting yard measures 285ft by 70ft, but because of the difficult land gradients which had to be overcome on the site, it meant its side walls are 18ft high and its central ridge is almost three times that height, creating an almost cathedral-style atmosphere.
The 8ft-long cubicle bays are fitted with mats and bedded twice-a-day with sawdust delivered by a bedding machine which also clears muck off the rear of the cubicle bed. Most of the cow cubicle accommodation has slatted flooring with a natural gradient taking all slurry into a two million gallon below ground store. This offers storage capacity from mid-October until March.
William says: “All cow accommodation is fitted with slats apart from a small area which has to be scraped. The slurry is moved without any pumping so there’s nothing to break down which has helped us to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible.”
Cubicles are fitted with mats and bedded twice-a-day with sawdust.
The Dairymaster rotary parlour is fitted with a backflush system, milk meters, diversion line and automatic teat sprayers.
“The intention was to make this level of investment to build a long-term future for the family in dairy farming. We aim to milk 400 cows but we also want to have a life outside farming. The rotary gives us the opportunity to make the most of modern milking technology today, but also gives us scope to expand further in the future if we decide to.
Richard, who was responsible for many of the design features including the large collection yard, says: “It has given us the chance to design and create a herd housing and management set-up incorporating all the features we wanted to help us run a large herd as efficiently as possible. We have to look forward.”
The impressive concreted collecting yard slopes upwards towards the rotary parlour. “I wanted a big collecting yard to cope with all the cows,” adds Richard, who also opted for a backing- gate fitted with a yard scraper.
All water from the dairy washings is collected and a system has been installed enabling it to be piped to three points at the top of the sloping yard area. It can then be pumped from the three exit points set in the concrete floor to provide a ‘total wash down’ of the entire yard.
As well as penning facilities for serving and treating cows, one of the innovations has been a narrow concrete walkway constructed along the outer side of the race. It gives an opportunity to be ‘above’ the cows in the race and makes for an easy and stress-free facility to inject, inspect or treat cows.
The herd, with an average yield of 9800 litres at 4.1% fat and 3.15% protein, is housed all year round apart from low yielders and dry cows which are grazed during the summer.
Forage needs are met from three cuts of silage taken from virtually all of the farm’s 400 acres to satisfy the 17-tonne daily forage requirement. In total, just short of 1000 acres of grass was cut for forage last year. The TMR mix is based solely on grass silage plus an 18% blend (5kg per head per day), fodder beet, Megalac and minerals. Cows are also fed in the parlour at a maximum rate of 4kg at each of the two milkings.
“Cows are much quieter and settled very quickly into the rotary system. We can now easily draft any cows for serving or treatment straight off the rotary and into the race without causing them any stress,” explains Richard.
Udder hygiene was high on the list of priorities and various options were considered – from paper towels and even cloth towels which would have been washed daily. But the decision was finally taken to use the Sanicleanse system developed by Northern Dairy Equipment.
A warm water brush is used to clean the teats and provides a fast stimulation for quick milk let down.
It uses a warm water brush to massage the teat and provides a fast stimulation for quick milk let down. The system pre-sanitises each teat helping to reduce broad spectrum bacteria.
“It’s a really easy piece of kit to use. I don’t think we’d keep up with the cows if we had to use any other system for teat cleaning.
“We’re definitely having less cases of mastitis,” says Steven, with the herd’s cell count in December 2015 standing at 111.