Dusthill Farm in Northants may be traditional, but it has some forward-thinking ideas when it comes to introducing new technology.
Bought in 1926, the farm is now run by third-generation farmers, Colin, his two brothers and their sons. The heart of this farm has always been dairy, however, over the years the farm has had to diversify into other areas, such as arable. A benefit of this diversification is that the farm’s 160 hectares of arable land is now used to produce all the feed and bedding for the dairy side of the business, which is a key factor in allowing the business to reduce overheads, increase margins and improve self-sustainability.
As a result of these different farming enterprises, the demand on the partners grew over time, resulting in less time to manage the herd of cows and more time filled with management jobs. In the summer of 2019, Dusthill Farm implemented a LEADER-funded project for a new robotic milking system and slurry processing unit. This was a revolutionary investment for the running of the farm.
The new robotic milking system not only allows the business to be more productive, but also has numerous health benefits for the cows. Through the positive association with being fed while milked and the autonomy for the cows to decide when to be milked, it reduces stress for the animal overall. Another benefit of the new system is the health checks for the cows, which allows for the monitoring of teat health. As each cow also wears a collar, all the data from each milking is directly linked to an app on the farmer’s device or computer. The farmer can then monitor the temperature of the cow, the body condition, and its movement. This means they can observe and examine the health of individual cows, leading to the best possible care for each cow.
The other aspect of the project is the automated scrapers and slurry separator. This equipment allows for the continuous scraping of the passageway, rather than once or twice a day, allowing for a cleaner environment for the cows, improving the health of their feet and reducing the lameness in the herd. The scraped slurry is then divided in the slurry separator and mixer, and the organic matter is used in the fields where there is a need for an organic matter boost. The liquid is used to replace fertiliser in targeted areas. As a result of this separator and mixer, there has been a reduction in the amount of nitrate on the ground.
This project has not only improved the lives of the cows and their welfare, it has also allowed the farm business to be more productive, producing a third more milk a day. Colin summarises the project saying: “the herd is far more relaxed and I wish I’d implemented such a project years ago”.
The benefits of being able to monitor and understand the herd is key to the efficient, self-sufficient farming of the future.