Robotic Milking

Robotic milking technologies are becoming increasingly important in UK dairy farming – The cows are milked automatically at any time, without the need for a human worker to be present.

About 6% of UK farms already use robotic milking but they also constitute about 30% of all new milking systems being purchased.

The robotic milking machine automatically connects to the cow’s teats and turns off when the milking is complete. A safety mechanism ensures that cows can only be milked for a certain number of times per day – some cows choose to be milked four or five times.

Managing a farm with milking robots requires a different approach compared to conventional milking.
Higher milk yields and lower workforce costs are two driving factors for farmers adopting robotic milking, says Ian Ohnstad, director of the Dairy Group and a specialist in milking technology. But other farmers place higher value on other benefits, he says, such as a more flexible working day or more time available for more general work on the herd.

You can see how robotic milking works in more detail in this video.

Case Study

Motivated by the desire to provide new opportunities for the next generation, the Robinson family initially made the switch to robotic milking in 2021. Since then the Market Drayton based business has established a robot-ready dairy unit on a greenfield site, moved completely away from conventional milking and have now increased to 6 Fullwood JOZ Merlin robots.

“Making the switch to robots has been really positive for both the cows and our business,” explains Richard Robinson, who farms in partnership with his sons, Henry and James, at Petsey Farm in Shropshire. “The amount of management data the system generates is staggering, and extremely useful, and the robots free up so much time that we can now spend observing the cows,” he says. “It’s no surprise that we’re picking up issues like lameness early and this allows swift intervention and improves cow welfare.”

Building the new robotic unit has given the family scope to increase cow numbers to 300, and they are aiming to do this during the next few months. “The aim is to develop a compact, easy-to-manage and efficient dairy unit that will support the family well into the future,” adds Richard.


Milk yield

Prior to their move to Petsey Farm, the family milked a herd on a unit near Lichfield, before acquiring Cotton Farm as an additional site in 2019. While waiting for planning permission to develop the new robotic unit (Petsey Farm) on some of Cotton Farm’s land, the family installed two robots within Cotton Farm’s existing 1960s-era infrastructure.

“It was a good learning experience,” says Richard. “The knowledge we gained and practice we had getting to grips with analysing robot data has proved to be invaluable.”

Building work for Petsey Farm began in 2021, with the first cow shed completed in December 2022. This specialist design was based on the robotic system at Nottingham University’s dairy unit.

“Everything is geared towards cow comfort, to provide the herd with free and easy access to the robots,” explains Richard. “When we moved the cows to the unit in 2022, they transitioned well and we quickly began hitting yields of 33 litres per cow per day.”