Farmer/owner: Crutchley Family
Farm location: Bridport, Dorset
Farm name: Crutchley Farms
Herd: 650 Holstein Friesians
Milking system: Parallel Parlour – Fullwood Index 90
Date of installation: September 2007
In 2002, the late Commander Crutchley began to consider the farm’s future and by 2004 had put plans in place to merge the two herds on a 2.5 hectare site opposite the existing buildings at Marsh Farm near Nettlecombe.
The estate’s two dairy units have been replaced with a system which includes a Fullwood 40:40 rapid exit parlour and cubicle accommodation for up to 650 cows.
“We weighed up the various benefits and disadvantages of each of the main types of large parlour,” Anthony Butler explains, “and settled on a rapid exit layout because of its ability to milk a large number of cows in a relatively small space.”
The Fullwood 40:40 takes up roughly the same amount of space as a typical 12:12, 50 degree herringbone parlour. “It’s a spacious and quiet environment to work in,” describes dairy manager, Nigel Waterman. “It’s a simple design, and one which lets the milking team see the cows as they are being milked. That for us was one of the main advantages over a rotary parlour.”
As well as the new milking facilities, phase one of the farm’s redevelopment also included the construction of two new cows sheds, each with cubicle accommodation for 200 cows. The cubicles have been fitted with mattresses for added cow comfort and to reduce teat and udder damage, which has contributed to fewer cases of mastitis.
“Cow welfare was a top consideration during the planning phase,” Anthony continues, “as was designing a layout which would aid good cow flow. We worked hard to make sure the cows never have to turn back on themselves to prevent any locomotion issues.”
Another identical shed for an additional 200 cows has subsequently been built, while a fourth shed has also been erected, complete with 48 sand-bedded cubicles, taking milking cow accommodation up to 650 stalls. Another 100 sand-bedded cubicles within the old dairy buildings are used for dry cow housing.
Cow numbers have been increased by importing heifers from Germany, Holland and Denmark, while the milking team has grown to two full-time and five part-time workers milking three times a day. The team operates under Nigel’s guidance, and he has focused on developing milking and management routines which enable the cows to perform to the best of their ability by treating them as individuals.
“Finding good staff who will follow instructions to the letter is a challenge,” Nigel reports, “but we have a solid team who understand that their role is to work to the rules and procedures that we have put in place.
“For us, it’s not about how quickly we can milk the cows, but making sure each is cow is milked properly reach and every time and given the necessary attention to detail.”
The milking routine that Nigel has put in place allows a throughput of 160 cows per hour, with two people in the parlour and a third taking care of feeding and bedding the animals.
Key to the way they manage cows during the various phases of lactation is the use of auto-ID technology to identify individual animals. Each cow wears a pedometer for identification and heat detection, with the parlour fitted with a ‘per-stall’ identification system to ensure the cow being milked has been identified correctly.