Andrew and Kirstie Baird

J P Baird,

Auchnotroch Farm,

South Lanarkshire

Sponsored by: Germinal

ROBOTIC milking, autumn block calving and maximising the use of grazed grass may not typically go hand-in-hand, but it is proving to be the right mix for the Baird family. The 200-cow cross-bred herd is milked through four Fullwood Merlin robots and paddock grazed full-time from late March through to calving in October.

Working towards their ambition of running 2.5 cows per hectare and maximising milk from forage, the Baird family switched from set stocking and two cuts of silage to paddock grazing and a multi-cut silage system about seven years ago to boost grass growth, increase stocking density and improve farm productivity. Grassland management now includes pre-mowing on third rotation and a fresh shift of grass three times a day. Their involvement with GrassCheck GB has led to better discipline when it comes to measuring grass. Andrew says: “Through GrassCheck GB, we have learned the farm grew 12 tonnes dry matter per hectare last year, compared to 9.5t DM/ha before we took part in the project.”

Farm management software is used to aid decision-making around grass deficiencies or surplus and introducing the robots has also helped to increase farm output, with minimal changes to inputs. Fertility, lameness and health herd has since improved along with yields, increasing from 6,500 litres/cow/year before the robots, to 8,000 litres now. Looking ahead, the couple feel input costs are likely to be a challenge for their business. As a result, the use of artificial fertiliser continues to reduce at Auchnotroch in favour of greater use of slurry mixed with digestate and composted farmyard manure to improve soil nutrients and organic matter while maintaining grass yields.

“Cost of concentrate feed is another challenge for the business,” says Andrew. “As the cows are fed their full concentrate allowance in the robots, we are able to calculate the tonnage each cow has eaten and therefore work out a milk from forage figure. We use this information to select our most efficient cows to breed replacements from.” This is coupled with electricity costs and while renewables including biomass, wind and solar are already in place, discussion around other sources to reduce costs are underway.