NZ’s first commercial robotic dairy farm open
September 25, 2008
New Zealand’s first commercial robotic dairy farm open
New Zealand’s agricultural industry has taken a fast forward with the official opening of the country’s first robotic commercial dairy farm yesterday.
On Stradbrook Farm in Mid
Canterbury, the cows milk themselves any time of the day or
night; the strip grazing fences use solar power instead of
human power and robotic gates open and shut alone, driven by
the needs of the individual cow standing before them.
Even the effluent system turns itself on and off, sorting fibre from liquid. The 5am/5pm guaranteed milking times are gone and cows are treated as individuals, no longer just a herd.
Owned and operated by the Carr Agricultural Group, Stradbrook Dairy Farm is the only one of its kind in New Zealand and the world. The 80ha dairy conversion near Mayfield not only showcases innovative dairy farming solutions but is also operating commercially as a fully-functioning dairy farm.
Carr Agricultural Group’s Winslow Ltd is the agent and New Zealand’s first Lely Dairy Centre, is using Stradbrook to showcase the cutting edge technology products. Winslow managing director Craig Carr said Stradbrook will be milking 280 cows this year and working towards developing a split calving model to maximize the use of the robots all year round.
Approximately 40 out of town guests toured the farm yesterday and another 200 attended the official opening and launch of the Lely Dairy Centre by Agricultural Minister Jim Anderton and world chief executive of Lely Holding Alexander Lely at the Ashburton Hotel.
In setting up the farm Winslow has worked closely with DairyNZ (formerly Dexcel) which has used a different brand of milking robots on its research farm in Hamilton.
DairyNZ spokesman Bruce Thorrold told the evening gathering Winslow’s investment in taking robotic milking to a commercial level was a “bold step” forward for the dairy industry in New Zealand.
“We are excited about what we are all going to learn through from this venture. At DairyNZ we see a lot of value in investing our resources in this venture. Central to our investment has been the willingness of the Carrs to share what they are learning with the agricultural industry in New Zealand.”
Innovations on the farm include:
o Adapting the robotic milking technology to a pasture-based system;
o The prototype solar powered strip grazer that frees farmers from having to continually move fences, and gives cows a more consistent feed pattern and fresh pasture;
o Grazeway gates that open and close automatically and direct the cow to different parts of the farm depending on what each cow needs and the pasture rotation.
o A computer system that can text problems to the farmer
o Collar technology that records the cow’s chewing pattern to determine its health status and whether it is getting enough feed.
o Automatic Luna cow brushes to comfort and massage the cow
o An effluent system designed by Plucks Engineering that reduces the environmental impact of dairying’s most challenging by-product.
Based on the success of robotic milking overseas started by Lely more than 15 years ago, Winslow purchased four Lely Astronaut A3 milking robots in July 2007 after first touring five farms overseas where they were in use.
“After seeing their benefits, we had decided to use the robots in our company’s own dairy conversion. We had already had success with Lely’s automatic calf feeders so we were confident the robots were the next logical step,” Mr Carr said.
Then came the opportunity to become Lely’s first New Zealand Lely Dairy Centre, which this opening marks, to act as agent for the products.
Lely New Zealand managing director Peter Vis said the Astronaut robotic milkers were kinder to cows than traditional milking as it served their needs rather than the farmer’s time schedule. The robots’ sensors also picked up any health issues a lot more quickly than some dairy staff.
Once all the cows have calved and are trained in the system the farm will be open to the public for tours from November.
Mr Carr said both innovating and bringing innovation to NZ had been the Carr Group’s strategy over the past 30 years.
“Our core business is to provide ‘productivity, profit and peace of mind’ to farmers. It is my job to ensure that Winslow continues to be at the forefront of bringing innovation to New Zealand so our customers have solutions to face the ongoing challenges they face on a day to day basis.”
Company profile of Winslow Ltd/Carr Agricultural Group
Since purchasing Winslow Feeds feed
mill in 2000, the Carr Agricultural Group has re-engineered
the small mill and grown the company to become a leading
developer of innovative farm feed and service
Winslow Ltd has a ruminant stock feed division, a seed division, a baling and transport division, a bio-systems division and its new farm technology systems division. The Carr Agricultural Group has had a long history in servicing the farming sector started by Greg and Glenys Carr in the late 1970’s as baling contractors and farmers. Winslow Ltd was recently named a finalist in the NBR Bayer Innovators Awards for agricultural/environmental innovation. See www.winslowltd.co.nz for more information.