• Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre

South West Dairy Development Centre

Integrating robotic milking and precision grazing.

The South West Dairy Development Centre, Agri-EPI’s dairy farm of the future, is located in the south west of England – an important milk producing region, home to nearly 25% of dairy cows in Great Britain. The farm provides a platform to test and demonstrate new and emerging technologies. Agri-EPI Centre commissioned one of their core industrial partners – independent dairy specialist Kingshay – to design, build and operate a state-of-the-art dairy for research and development, with funding from Innovate UK and industry partners.

Technology at the Centre

  • At its heart is a 180-cow herd run on a commercial basis. The fabric roofed building is the first of its kind in the UK and measures 90 metres by 28.
  • The building is designed to optimise cow comfort and ease of movement from lying area to milking to feeding. Two types of cubicle are installed – the Kingshay developed K38 and Easyfix all fitted with Easyfix mattresses and bedded on sawdust.
  • Three GEA DairyRobot R9500 (formerly Monobox) do the milking. Clusters are attached and complete a cycle of cleansing, milk let-down stimulation, fore milking and milk harvesting followed by post dipping, all while the cluster is attached.
  • The building is 5 metres to the eaves and open sided. Air flow is controlled by curtain walling provided by Galebreaker. Sensors measuring wind speed, rainfall and internal humidity within the building control the positioning of the curtain.
  • Feeding is by means of a Mullerup automated feed kitchen. Silages are loaded into the moving floor feed tables which then dispense pre-programmed quantities of each, along with concentrate feeds, into the rail mounted feed dispenser which delivers the ration to the selected sections of the building up to 15 or more times a day. The system enables a range of different diets to be fed for feed trials for cows in milk, transition or dry.
  • Feed storage bins are mounted on weigh cells to enable accurate feed use and to provide the ForFarmers feed mill with data so that they can optimise their supply logistics.

Grazing management

Being in the heart of superb grass growing country in Somerset, we use technology to maximise the use of grazing for the 180 autumn calving cows. Milk from forage pays. And milk from grazing pays even better so this new facility combines state-of-the-art housing and technology with precision grazing using sensors to measure and manage all aspects of the system.

The grazing will be divided into three zones. In every 24 hours cows will be given 8 hours access to a paddock in each zone. This way, the cows are provided fresh food every 8 hours.

We are working with other Agri-EPI Centre partners to bring the precision technology already being used in the arable sector across to forage and grazing management. Challenges will include using hyperspectral imaging to provide real-time analysis of grazing quantity and quality so that feed supplementation can be matched to the grass the cows are eating.

Demonstration and test bed facilities: 5G RuralFirst

A key element of the dairy centre will be to provide state-of-the-art demonstration facilities with visitor access and high-speed connectivity to exploit the benefits of remote access. The dairy is one of the three test beds for the recently announced 5G RuralFirst project which will exploit the massive opportunities for improved connectivity offered to rural business by the next generation of mobile signal.

It is estimated that there are 13 million connected agricultural devices today. This is forecast to rise to 225 million devices in the next ten years. The challenge will be choosing the technology that is right for your herd and crucially making sure it talks to your other technology. That is where this new facility comes in – to provide a test bed for emerging technology and take UK dairying forward towards an exciting future. For example, one of the first research trials on our new dairy unit will be helping to test an emerging in line system called Milkalyser measuring milk progesterone levels to map the overall ovulation cycle of each cow.”


Further enquiries

For more information about the South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset, please get in touch with us:

Duncan Forbes (facilities)
Project Manager Agri-EPI Centre / Dairy Research Director Kingshay
E Duncan.forbes@agri-epicentre.com

Jane Smernicki (media enquiries)
Corporate Communications Manager Agri-EPI Centre
E yoni.van.breukelen@agri-epicentre.com

Supported by


To find out more about Agri-EPI Centre please get in touch.