Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Robots and Automation Taking Grind out of Daily Farm Routine

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Robots and Automation Taking Grind out of Daily Farm Routine

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAEME WHITFIELD Busienss editor graeme.whitfield@reachplc.com

FARMERS in the North East have spoken about the benefits of robotics and automated systems for their businesses.

A number of farmers in the region have worked with Lely Center in Longtown, Cumbria, a specialist in robotic milking and feeding, which is marking 10 years in business this year.

General manager David Henderson said: "Automation is taking away the 24/7 labour requirement, including the shear hard grind of repetitive work, and improving quality of life.

"In turn, robotic systems gives farmers the opportunity to focus on the cows, schedule their day and overall farm management around the cows, whether it's milking, feeding, cleaning out, health or comfort. It's those choices that can really make the difference.

"Apart from helping to redress staffing issues, automation is also helping to improve the industry's image which I think is a main contributor to staff shortages." Among farmers to have taken up automation is Graham Lough, who farms 80 Friesian cows at Stamfordham in Northumberland, and has a installed a milking robot and a gate system in recent years.

He said: "Together, the two systems have given us a lot more opportunity both to manage the job and provide a work-life balance.

"Introducing the milking robot was a massive leap forward, but very worthwhile - bringing many benefits; taking the cows' welfare to the next level; better for the environment and kinder on us.

"Furthermore, being able to continue grazing has been a bonus, it is the most efficient way to utilise forage and it is what cows are designed to do - graze grass. The herd is grazing for seven months of the year and averaging up to 30 litres from 2.5 to 2.8 milkings per day from grass.

"The whole project is a continuous work in progress; it has taken time to develop tracking, field layout, electric fencing and water supply in the right place, and there has been trial and error to find what works best for our cows and on our farm. …

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