West Gippsland dairy farmers look to Lely for robotic milking technology

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Dairy farmers Darryl and Trudi Hammond aren’t looking back after installing six Lely Astronaut A4 milking robots.

West Gippsland dairy farmers look to Lely for robotic milking technology
Dairy farmers Darryl and Trudi Hammond with their son Finn

Darryl and Trudi Hammond are part of a growing number of Australian dairy farming families undertaking the installation of a Lely robotic milking system.

The Hammond’s farm is located at Buln Buln, just out of Warragul in West Gippsland and has been in Trudi Hammond’s family for 46 years.

At peak it milks 450 to 500 cows.

Darryl and Trudi Hammond were previously milking through an automated 20 unit double-up Herringbone, which needed replacing, so they looked through the available options of installing a rotary compared to a robotic milking system.

According to Lely, the Hammonds agree robotic milking is a revolutionary step in dairy technology offering the potential to increase production and reduce stress on both animals and people at the same time.

"We had a look at all brands of robotic dairy farms and not only were the Lely farmers happy, but the cows were also walking around leisurely," Darryl Hammond says.

"I love a good challenge, and the concept of having more time to get other jobs done around the farm is a win-win.

"We chose Lely because of its whole package; the [Lely team] had the ideas, the skills and they were hands on," he adds.

"We already had a relationship with Murray and Daniel from Traf Tractor & Machinery, who are also the local Lely Center Trafalgar."

"The Lely Center has really taken ownership for us, they are involved and passionate. The technicians are always positive and happy. We couldn’t fault their part in this process, they have been great."

Hammond says he sees robots as a long-term commitment and liked what Lely stands for.

"The more we find out about Lely, the more we like them as a company," he says.

"Lely worked with us on what we had, were not regimented but actually flexible in the planning on where the robots had to be located."

The system is voluntary and feed driven, therefore removing cow stress.

The reduction of stress is due to minimal human interference and free cow traffic allowing for cows to flow accordingly to the hierarchy rules in the herd and show very relaxed cow behaviour.

In turn, farmers face a much lighter workload and can choose when they want to be in the shed.

Not only does the Lely Astronaut A4 automate milking, it automatically cleans the milk lines and the robots three times a day, and automatically washes the vat after the milk is removed.

"Milking cows is a mundane job, and most farmers spend too much time in the dairy and not enough time outside," Hammond says.

"This system is a business that makes money and gives us the lifestyle we need.

"Family is pivotal for us, and we now have more time to spend with the family, also involving our kids in the process. Lely also has a great family ethos."

Implemented at the Hammond’s farm in March, the system is designed to improve animal health and it is built around the cow.

"[The cows] weren’t too bad to teach, about four days for the average cow until they were comfortable," Hammond says.

"The cow is able to decide when she eats, gets milked, or lies down, therefore reducing stress"

The Lely Astronaut improves the well-being of the cow using ‘the ABC grazing system’ — where fresh grass is available twice or a possible three times in a 24-hour period.

This rewards the animals with fresh pasture post milking.

It is an eight-hour grazing system. Three different pasture areas, and every eight hours a Lely Grazeway is used to automatically draft the cows to the new pasture area.

Lely Australia supports new Astronaut installations with an on-farm support ‘buddy’ and grazing specialist.

According to Trudi Hammond the pressure their buddy Geoff has taken off the family is tremendous.

"He is a godsend, the perfect teacher and he never rushes you. He has fitted right in and knows when to attack certain subjects," she says.

Would the Hammonds go back to the old way they used to milk cows? Darryl and Trudy are adamant: "No way, not a chance. We would probably get out of dairying".

While robotic milking systems are still a relatively new concept in Australia, since 2001 for Lely, Darryl Hammond believes there is a firm future for them in Australia.

"Labour can be a challenge and a roadblock, the Lely robotic system eliminates that issue and milks for you," he points out.

"People need to have a good look and we don’t mind answering questions and sharing our experiences as time goes on.

"It has already been a worthwhile experience and we are only a few weeks in."

For further information, contact Mark Smyth on 1300 946 306.

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