Introducing automation to a 280 Holstein Friesian cow unit at Woolsery, North Devon has been a gamechanger for the Davey family - Steve, Charlotte and their two daughters, Becky and Marion. In the last 16 months, they have invested in four automated milking systems, a feed pusher and four automatic feed stations followed by two automated slurry collectors.

“Whilst we are seeing significant improvements in herd performance which will eventually cover the investments, the biggest bonus is better lifestyles,” says Marion. “The robots have introduced huge flexibility that is enabling us to not only improve herd management, but also spend more quality time with our families - my sister and I have five children between us.

“We’re both no longer tied to the milking parlour or doing jobs for certain periods at specific times of the day.”

Becky adds: “Our father recently fell ill and spent time in hospital, but we have coped and continued with our day to day farm and family chores, something that would never have been possible before life with automation; we would have needed outside help or worked around the clock.”

The Daveys initially invested in four Lely A4 automated milking systems and the Juno which keeps feed pushed up in front of the cows. Since then herd average milk yield has increased by approximately 30 percent.

Eleven months later they introduced two Discovery automated slurry collectors. “We’ve seen huge improvements to overall herd health simply because they maintain cleaner passages and walkways. Mastitis incidents have fallen by around 50 percent, the herd has a rolling three month average SCC of 125 and bactoscan 15.

“Lameness has reduced by up to 50 percent, furthermore we now do more routine trimming and a lot less corrective measures, whilst conception rate has improved by seven percent,” says Marion.

“At the same time, our staff levels have stayed the same - us four plus two rotating self employed staff. However working hours have been dramatically reduced from nine hours a day just milking cows in the parlour, to four hours completing our entire milking herd management.”

Steve Davey adds: “From the project’s start to finish I have really enjoyed working on it and am very proud of what we have achieved. Working with our Lely Center Devon and Cornwall has been a real pleasure and nothing was ever too much trouble. The team is very professional and definitely goes the extra mile.

“Whilst I’m not technology minded, I would recommend automation. It’s great for us all and the herd; there’s really nothing to be afraid of. It has allowed myself and my wife to achieve our goal, working with our family.”

The Davey family is hosting two workshops at Higher West Town Farm, Woolsery, on Tuesday 16 April, in collaboration with Lely, Biotal/Lallemand and FourCows. Guest speaker and specialist in cow signals, Roy Eastlake will be offering advice and practical training designed to help farmers advance cow health, housing, management, feeding and breeding.

Please txt Lely’s Dan Gifford on 07900 494391 to register your intentions to attend.