Cutting edge facilities supporting sustainable milk production
Dairy production innovators have a novel, state-of-the-art facility in which to test technology following the relaunch of Agri-EPI Centre’s South West Dairy Development Centre (SWDDC).
Already established as a high-performing dairy innovation unit, the SWDDC has reopened following an extensive upgrade to install the latest robotic and sensor technology. Additions include a high-welfare, free access system for cows, integrating Lely A5 robotic milking systems with precision-grazing, while incorporating the existing GEA robotic feeding system. Galebreaker side curtains ensure the climate within the building is continually optimised.
The resource offers a truly innovative environment for developing, testing and demonstrating new technologies and techniques to support sustainable, efficient, high health and welfare, cost-efficient milk production. Located close to Shepton Mallet in the heart of the region’s milk field, the unit features a typically sized 180-cow herd run on a commercial basis and provides a platform for higher technology readiness level developers.
The building and facilities are run by precision engineering specialists, Agri-EPI Centre, while the herd is owned and managed by the Christensen family, trading as Steanbow Farms. and noted throughout the farming community for their efficient dairy and poultry enterprises. The project is supported by Innovate UK. All milk goes to local processors, Barber’s cheese.
“We are thrilled to reopen the Centre for business following the installation of an R&D platform focussing on integrating free grazing and automation ready for innovation,” explains Agri-EPI Centre Head of Agri-Tech (Dairy), Robert Morrison.
The Centre key areas of focus are to
· Provide state-of-the art facilities for research, development and demonstration with an emphasis on optimising productivity
· Integrate robotic milking with precision grazing
· Demonstrate profitable and resource efficient milk production techniques
· Demonstrate the highest standards of animal health and welfare and how technology can be used to optimise this
· Demonstrate routes to sustainable milk production by adopting circular dairy principles in all aspects of the production process
Steanbow Farms’ Neil Christensen comments:
“We’re keen to work with Agri-EPI as service providers on our farm. We want the Centre to do well which is why we created that relationship in the first place – for the future of the industry. A robotic demonstration farm is becoming more and more relevant as the industry tackles ever increasing labour challenges. This Centre is demonstrating systems and an approach; it’s a place for technology testing but also knowledge exchange and industry engagement.”
Robert Morrison adds:
“We look forward to developing new partnerships and projects – both funded and private research, which will continue our current themes featuring animal health and welfare, environmental sustainability, farm business sustainability, and feed and productivity.”