Farmer/owner: NSC staff and students
Farm location: Baschurch, Shropshire
Farm name: Walford Farm, North Shropshire College
Herd: 300 Holsteins
Milking system: One Fullwood Merlin and one 24:24 Herringbone Parlour
Date of installation: July 2013
Only a few years ago at Walford Farm, an old dairy parlour and housing was inhibiting the teaching and future progression of the dairy facilities which forms part of Walford Campus, North Shropshire College (NSC) at Baschurch near Shrewsbury. In order to move forward, major improvements had to be made fairly quickly and this coupled with a new dairy farm manager, experienced herdsmen plus research and education, a new direction for progression was made.
After a period of research and proposals, the outcome was to launch a strategic business plan for the farm, with an educational focus for teaching agricultural students and transforming the College’s milking and cow housing conditions.
As part of the £1 million development plan, a new complex was built to accommodate one Fullwood Merlin robot plus a 24:24 streamline herringbone parlour (with provision for 30:30), a 12,000 litre Fullwood Packo bulk tank and a cow housing facility. The latter includes two new loose cow sheds to house 150 adult cows and a cubicle shed for up to 160. The dairy farm is extremely well organised and enables both milking parlours to have segregation systems, holding and handling areas for educational and veterinary purposes.
Richard Aldis is Farm Manager at the dairy unit and he is occasionally assisted by Mike Lutman, a former student of the college who was employed at NSC for over 38 years before his retirement in early 2015. Richard is successful in overseeing the successful running of the farm by improving milk yields, continuing healthy cow herd management and making the enterprise attractive to current and prospective students. The two parlours and staff who support these ensure that the students receive the best training using modern milking technology and equipment.
Mike commented “The robot is fantastic. I never thought I would have the opportunity to work with a robot and I have to say they are straight forward; the cows are so happy. We control their diet, monitor their performance – it is an incredible use of technology.”
The current milking situation suits the cows and those working with them – the Merlin robot milks the freshly calved cows whilst the herringbone parlour is milking the post 100 day cows.
Richard states “One of the farm’s targets is to reach a herd average of 9,500 litres per cow per year and this will be achieved by spring 2016.”
Fifty cows per day are being milked by the Fullwood Merlin robot with each cow averaging 38 litres of milk per day.
Richard adds “We took the decision to keep the cows inside the barns throughout 2015 to manage their feed intakes as part of their controlled diet. The success of the cows’ diet and being milked through a robot has taken an average of 30 days off each cow’s lactation cycle and their calving index has decreased from 450 to 420. We are very pleased about this.”
For more information about North Shropshire College, please visit www.nsc.ac.uk