GEA’s new rotary parlour improves herd environment and boosts milk yield

An expanding family farm has more than halved milking time for its 600-strong Pedigree Holstein herd, improving the working conditions at the farm for both cows and staff as well as increasing milk yield, after investing in a GEA T8900 rotary milking parlour.

Before making a decision the Icke family – father Martyn and sons Richard and Simon – embarked on a rigorous selection process for their Wheatlands Farm in Pershore. They visited many dairy sites and installations before travelling with GEA to see a farm in the Netherlands and becoming the first farmers in the UK to order the new T8900 parlour, which ticked all their boxes.

Milking three times a day was taking its toll on the farm’s infrastructure, staff and cows. However, since the installation of the new GEA rotary parlour milking time has been significantly reduced from 15 hours to just over seven. This is a saving which is also hugely beneficial to the comfort of the cows, leaving them more time to ruminate resulting in increased yield, as well as releasing staff to work on other areas of the farm.

The new layout, with a larger collecting yard and a redesigned shed has also visibly reduced herd stress levels, and vastly improved cow flow. On top of this the farm’s Bactoscan level has dropped from somewhere between 25 and 30, to now between 6 and 10. This reduction is attributed to the new GEA glycol cooling system, meaning the milk is cooled quickly and hits the tank at four degrees.

Another huge advantage is that the rotary provides scope for future expansion at the farm without a significant increase in waiting times, as Richard Icke explained: “Time saving is the main benefit of the GEA rotary parlour, with each session reduced from five hours to two hours 20 minutes – that’s a lot of extra time for the herd to produce milk without disruption. The staff are happier too as they can spend more time developing other skill sets and varying the day’s work. As a farm, we’ve now got the potential opportunity to get more land and more cows but no need for more staff, which is a really great situation to be in.”

GEA and the local GEA dealer – Kristal D & D – supported the farm throughout this project although it was not without its challenges, including the original builder of the shed pulling out at last minute, a flooded underpass hampering work, and the logistical knock-ons of a global pandemic – all to overcome before the farm’s owners were able to enjoy the benefits of the new parlour.

Designed especially for mid-sized to large dairy herds, the GEA T8900 is a high-performance rotary milking parlour, which can be custom-built to suit a farm’s needs and budget. The milking cluster with the Posi arm is perfectly positioned to enable swift and comfortable operation and minimising physical strain on the cows. GEA’s herd management software Dairy Plan is linked to the cows’ ID and ensures that each cow is milked out quickly, gently and completely.

Other key features that improve cow flow and cow comfort include smooth, stainless steel surfaces; stalls that are lower which are better for reversing the animals off the rotary, as they can swing their heads around; and a fully automated CIP process.

The Icke family has been milking Pedigree Holstein at Wheatlands Farm for 30 years. They have successfully grown the herd from 80 cows to 600 during that time and are now well placed for further expansion with GEA’s equipment and support helping to boost milk yield without incurring extra staff time and costs.

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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.