Our recently installed automated robotic milking system and its associated data hub are already proving a fantastic asset to our campus farm by delivering training in cutting edge green technology to staff and students.

The hi-spec Lely Astronaut A5 has two robotic milking stations incorporating sophisticated data processing which deliver highly accurate readings in areas such as feed intake, milk yield and individual cow health.

The data is available on touch screen at our new Robotic Milking Centre and also on large screens in the Data Hub, which has also been supported by Lely and is based in our refurbished FIC 5 classroom.

This innovative knowledge exchange facility will enable us to provide training in the emerging areas of digitalisation, robotics, sustainability and data-driven dairy management to students, undergraduates, specialist engineers, Lely clients and members of our farming community. It will also help in the remote delivery of modules, and will make lessons more engaging for students.

We aim to ensure our next generation farmers and industry clients can harness the necessary data and digital technologies to produce sustainable food within the confines of climate change – necessary skills within this fast evolving industry.

Animal science undergraduates at our research led university centre are also looking forward to using the generated statistics for a planned project on the potential of feeding biochar to cattle. This will examine biochar’s impact on milk production in dairy cattle and on cow and weaner health and longevity.

The robotic dairy, which also has automated feeding and cleaning systems, operates alongside our traditional milking parlour and this gives learners the unique opportunity to directly compare both methods. Selected cows from our high yielding dairy herd are introduced to the robotic dairy shortly after calving and are returned to the conventional parlour and then out to grass on rotation as lactation decreases.

Early results show that those on the robotic system choose to make 3.7 visits each day to be milked compared with twice daily milking on the traditional system. The average daily milk yield per cow has increased to 39 litres and resting time has lengthened by three hours daily, benefitting fertility.

Training the cows to become individuals with choice rather than herd animals has required initial 24 hour commitment from our farm team but this has been achieved successfully and has provided a valuable experience for agriculture students on stock duty. The robot has the ability to text our Dairy Team to ask for assistance if there are issues either with an individual cow or with the machinery.

Lely is a market leader in this field and the company will continue to work closely with Reaseheath by using the facility to train and demonstrate their technology.