The successful adoption of DeLaval VMS™ milking robots on a small family farm in Tasmania has brought a new generation home to the dairy.
On Denise and Cameron Suna’s farm in Wilmot, Tasmania, five robots have replaced the old one-side double up herringbone system. The automated system milks a herd of 300 cross-bred cows from a three-way grazing system. The family installed the first robots four years ago, and have just added the fifth in fulfillment of their long-term plan to grow the herd to 350 cows.
In an office above the automated platform, the couple’s son, Dayne Suna, is kept busy analysing the data captured by the robots, which is used to assess production, stay alert to any animal illness, and to make critical herd decisions.
His return to the farm is something that his mother, farmer Denise Suna, didn’t expect when she first started to dream about robotic milking.
“My hands were getting really bad, arms and shoulders aching at night, I could see a day where I just couldn’t milk them,” she said.
Her initial goal for automating the milking process was to remove the physical burden of putting the cups on the cows twice a day. The farm’s remote location meant it was difficult to find good staff to relieve Denise and her husband Cameron of the bulk of the milking labour.
“We’re a bit isolated out here, there just wasn’t anyone out here,” said Cameron.
But as well as saving Denise physical labour, the automated milking process appealed to son Dayne’s love of computers, mechanics, and sophisticated data.
“He would never be here on the farm if we still had the old herringbone,” said Denise. “He didn’t want to be milking cows in the way that he saw me milking cows.”
The family says the change in the cows behaviour has been significant, particularly noting how much calmer and happier the animals are in the shed and the significantly lower rates of disease.
“Plus I can sleep at night again because my hands aren’t aching, my shoulders aren’t aching,“ adds Denise.