FARMING MATTERS: Looking into the future with Heather Jan Brunt

Farmer Clive Pullin who has a robotic milking parlour at his farm in Shalstone
Farmer Clive Pullin who has a robotic milking parlour at his farm in Shalstone

My late father-in-law was brought up on a dairy farm and hand milked cows when he was just a schoolboy.

On Friday I visited a robotic dairy in north Bucks and watched cows literallybeing milked by robots.

In the decades spanning that enormous leap from hand milking to robotic milking there have been many stages inbetween, and of course the dairy isn’t the only place where enormous changes have taken place. Modern farming is a highly technical place.

I was quite surprised to see how calm the cows were on Clive Pullin’s farm as they stood in the stalls and waited for the automated clusters to pop onto their teats.

Just like people, cows are not identical and their udders can differ quite dramatically.

I was informed by George, Mr Pullin’s 15-year-old son, that the specification for each cow had to be manually set up, so that the robot can remember the position of their teats.

The cows each wear a digital electronic reader around their necks, which the robot recognises as they enter the stall.

Ironically the robotic system allows the cows to be milked in a more natural way. Because instead of building up heavy udders of milk to be relieved twice a day at set times, they chose themselves when to go into the dairy and can be milked up to four times a day.

Of course the system is not without its problems – what system is?

But I’m sure my father-in-law would have been fascinated to see what is going on on dairy farms these days.