Farmer/owner: Stuart and Andrew Gresty
Farm location: Wrexham, Northeast Wales, UK
Farm name: The Cloy
Herd: 115 Friesian cows
Milking system: Fullwood 16:16 herringbone
Date of installation: March 2016
Installing a new parlour into their farm’s traditional buildings has enabled Stuart and Andrew Gresty to halve their herd’s milking time and proves that it is possible to upgrade to modern milking facilities without the need to embark on a major building project.
Father and son dairy farmers, Stuart and Andrew Gresty farm 186 acres at The Cloy near Wrexham in northeast Wales. The entire acreage is put to permanent pasture with the 115 British Friesian cows managed on a very traditional, closed herd system: the herd strip-grazes during the summer and receives straight grass silage at the feed barrier during the winter. All cows are served naturally by the farm’s bull, with only a minimal amount of AI used.
“Our farming philosophy is to keep things as simple as possible,” Andrew Gresty explains. “We aren’t trying to break any yield records or to be the biggest farmers. Instead, we are focused on keeping a very tight control on costs and on cow health and welfare. Despite our simple system, we’re consistently achieving 7,500 to 8,000 litres per lactation and can comfortably maintain a butterfat of 4.2% and protein of 3.3%.”
With the farm’s previous milking parlour – a 10:10 Fullwood herringbone installed in 1970 – becoming outdated, the Gresty’s have recently installed a new 16:16 parlour.
“We’d looked after the old parlour well, so there wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong with it,” Andrew continues. “It still worked as it should, but it needed to be updated to make it suitable for a modern farming system.
“We wanted to reduce milking times and to introduce a few simple pieces of technology which would give us a better understanding of each cow’s productivity and allow us to improve feed conversion efficiencies.”
The new 16:16 parlour has been installed on the same footprint that the 10:10 facility previously occupied.
“We didn’t want to build an entirely new milking shed as some people do,” Andrew states. “Instead, we wanted to keep costs down by re-using our existing building. That’s allowed us to keep the parlour in the same place which works well for us and the cows.”
The Gresty’s looked at various parlour makes and designs before settling on a Fullwood Streamline setup with 50 degree milking stalls. “We chose another Fullwood parlour partly because we wanted it to be installed our local Fullwood dealer, DA Cotton and Son, who we knew would do a good job, but also because we knew it would be a reliable, well-built parlour which would last well into the future.
“We made the parlour pit narrower to accommodate the steeper stall angles and removed a wall at the rear of the parlour to give the cows better access to the milking races.
“Apart from that and a new set of overhead strip lights, the building has remained pretty much as it was. It proves that it is possible to successfully upgrade and extend a parlour without having to break the bank. We even managed to complete the conversion without the need for a temporary milking bail by milking down one side of the old parlour while the other side was updated. It was hard work at the time, but it was a cheap and effective way of getting the job done.”
The new parlour is equipped with Fullwood’s ear tag identification system and automatic feeders, which have helped to reduce cake consumption by 15% thanks to the introduction of specific feed curves. Heifers in their first 100 days of lactation receive a fixed 9 kg of cake per day (cows receive 10 kg per day), while a variable feed curve, which feeds up to a maximum of 9 or 10 kilos, is used beyond 100 days.
“Despite the drop in cake consumption, we’re still producing the same volume and quality of milk,” Andrew insists. “Being able to feed individual animals to yield has significantly reduced our costs of production, while the auto ID system has also helped to reduce milking times by 50%.
“Whereas it took an average of 2.5 hours for one person to milk through the old parlour, the same amount of work can now be done in an hour and a quarter. With two people milking, we can be done and dusted in as little as an hour which makes it much easier to plan the rest of the working day.”
The new parlour’s automatic plant cleaning system also helps to shorten the twice-a-day milking regime, with it’s one button system enabling Andrew to get on with other jobs while the parlour washes itself.
The Gresty’s aim to be milking 125 cows within the next 12 months. “That’s the optimum size for our acreage and farming system,” Stuart explains. “We’ve theoretically got the capacity to put more cows through the parlour, but are happy to continue as we are for now. It’s a simple system and one which works well for us.”