Maximising Success with Robotic Milking Systems

Richard Threfell talks with British Dairying about the attention to detail needed on a robotic system and how Richard Bainbridge and the Advanced Robot team help to increase profitability.

Maximising Success with Robotic Milking Systems

Richard Threfell farms at Plumpton Head Farm, Penrith with his family. Two and a half years ago they installed six DeLaval robots to milk 320 of their 350 Holstein herd. They started working with Richard Bainbridge from Advanced Nutrition and their robotic division – Advanced Robot in May of last year. Six months into the contract and Richard felt that working with a robot team with significant experience and knowledge was the key to success. Twelve months on and that team are continuing to improve things on the farm to maximise their robot investment.

Richard explains, “We started working with Richard Bainbridge and Advanced Robot a year ago, we really liked their approach and attention to detail. They understand every farm is different and assemble a team to cover all areas of expertise. Looking at nutrition, they start from the calves to the fresh cows and beyond, as well as looking at the environment. Cow health is paramount in everything they do.”

Whilst Richard explains they weren’t in a bad place following the installation of the robots, he knew they weren’t getting the most out of the system and didn’t have the experience to make the right changes. As part of their milk contract one of the main objectives was to improve milk quality and overall herd health to increase profitability.

Mr Threfell continues “We knew we needed to utilise the robot data better.  We had lots of different groups and needed the feed tables to match what our cows were fed inside and outside the robot. The team’s knowledge and experience really helped with that.”

“Richard has always been good at advising on any feed changes. What’s important for us is overall feed efficiency and increased margin in the long term, rather than reducing feed costs in the short term.”  

Mr Bainbridge explains, “We have a bespoke system of ‘On The Day Costings’ which allow us to continually measure performance against KPIs, so when there are fluctuations in the market we know what to feed in the diet both for long and short term gains.”

To improve milk quality, one of the main changes in the diet was balancing the amino acids. Previously the farm had supplemented methionine with limited response.

“The key is to balance amino acids across the whole diet and our approach ensured that with the use of RumenSmart and MetaSmart we were able to get the response required. Butterfat has increased from 3.9% to 4.2% and protein has gone from 3.2% to 3.4%. Getting this right has a real impact of farm margin and we tend to see an unlocking of 2 – 3 pence per litre across the farms we work with,” explains Mr Bainbridge.

Richard Threfell comments, “We soon learned working with Advanced Robot, that although the nutritional changes were a massive help, they’re just a small proportion of what they do for us. It’s the huge attention to detail that helps find bottlenecks to makes all the difference.”


Mr Bainbridge emphasises the importance of mobility on robot herds. Their Advanced Mobility program takes a preventative approach and Richard applied the program’s tools from day one. Regular mobility scoring, monitoring and measurement of foot trimming records and protocols were all introduced. Richard also advised on grooving within the sheds. The Threfell’s are no longer fire-fighting lameness, visits have increased, and overall herd heath has improved.

Dry Cows
Another key to success was to improve the health of the dry cows. Mr Bainbridge introduced X-Zelit, a calcium binder to the diet.

Richard comments, “We are no longer seeing any milk fevers, we’ve significantly reduced retained cleansings and other associated metabolic issues. The main benefit for us is that we are not having to deal with sick cows. They calve and go straight back into the milking herd.”

The whole picture
Richard Bainbridge comments, “Working with Plumpton Head Farm has been a great example of how our team approach works. As a relatively new robot set up there was lots to develop and we don’t just focus on the milking cows but look at the dry cows, youngstock and the farm environment. It’s this understanding of how everything works together and improving multiple parts of the jigsaw, which makes a big impact on the overall picture.”





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