Remarkably, when Alastair Wright’s father moved into Gore Lane Farm in coronation year, 1953, the farm’s livestock comprised just 14 tethered cows. The number was soon expanded to around 40 but that was still a far cry from today’s herd of 250.
Alastair and his son James now have plans that could potentially double the number of cows again. “Some time ago we acknowledged that the best way forward in this competitive market would be to increase cow numbers and milk yields,” said Alastair. “We also knew that would have to be done without a significant increase in labour, at least in the early stages.”
What that meant in real terms was designing a system that would allow milking to be carried out efficiently by a single operative, while also being capable of handling additional cows and an extra man milking as the herd grows. Although increasing milk yields is a key factor in the Wright’s expansion plans, they were also determined that there should be no sacrifice of their high production standards. In recent years their farm on Wiltshire’s sweeping downland at Baydon has been contracted to produce milk for Sainsburys through Dairy Crest, and the Wrights pride themselves in meeting and exceeding the demanding standards of these major customers.
Alastair and James considered the challenge in detail and James came down strongly in favour of a rotary milking parlour. “Installing a rotary is highly unusual for a herd of our size, but I could see that it answered the requirements,” said James. “It would have the capacity we will need going forward and it meant that we would be able to milk the cows three times a day.
“Most importantly, the system would be able to be operated by one man. To make that work we also needed to incorporate a high performance dip and rinse system, as well as a control and monitoring system that would enable the operator to track any problems such as clusters becoming detached out of his view.”
Whilst providing what the farm potentially needed for the future, the new installation would clearly require a substantial investment, so James compiled a proposal and specification that he and his father then analysed in detail. In due course the decision was made to go ahead and the Wrights approached T H WHITE regarding the design and installation.
The system chosen is based on a 44-stall DeLaval rotary parlour incorporating not only the advanced AirWash Plus dip and rinse system, but also DeLaval’s new Milking Observation Screen (MOS). This unit is the first of its kind to be installed in the UK, and as well as alerting the operator to any problems he may not be able to see, it provides detailed information on each cow and her milking performance.
Once the design was complete, work started on the building to house the new parlour, collecting yard and handling facilities. Forward thinking was the order of the day here too and the opportunity was taken to commission the T H WHITE Energy Division to install solar panels on the roof during the construction phase.
“Our intention was to generate a large proportion of the electricity needed to run the parlour,” said Alastair. “This 47kWp installation doesn’t quite cover the entire energy consumption, but it’s a great start that could be expanded in the future.”
At the first milking in the new parlour James was interested to see how the cows would adapt: “As you might expect, some of them were reluctant at first, but once they saw others entering the rotary stalls they soon realised that this could be enjoyable. Now, if we let them, they would happily continue going round – literally until the cows come home!
“Of course, if the MOS shows us that a cow is milking well and has not finished after one revolution, we have the ability from the control panel to retain her for a second rotation which will take about 8-10 minutes. Usually, however, the cows are gently encouraged to leave the stall after one rotation by a light spray of water on the nose.
“Since we have been milking in the new parlour with AirWash Plus we have seen an improvement in mastitis rates, cell counts of 90 and a bactoscan of 10/12. That’s a trend that confirms the choices we made were the right ones. Another real bonus of the new parlour is that we can now milk three times a day which relieves stress in the cows and improves the yields.”
The Wrights are dairy farmers with a clear vision of their market, where they want to be in it and how they can achieve that. T H WHITE is proud to be playing a part in their journey.