Gala Farm - Australia

Gala Farm is one of four farms owned by the Dornauf family. Located in central Tasmania, on the south-eastern tip of Australia, it’s the home of the world’s first commercial DeLaval AMR™.

Back in 2010 the Dornaufs were looking to expand their business, and milk cows at Gala. One option they were looking at was robotic milking and introducing voluntary milking. Finding dedicated staff in the region was becoming harder. On top of that, the business was in a growth period - the long-term plan at Gala was to milk around 550-600 cows. 

In typical temperate grassland style the Dornauf family practice both spring and autumn calving on their farms, so they needed a milking system that could handle a large volume of cows at one time. This meant it had to be robust, hard-wearing, labour-saving, and reliable.

Was AMR the answer? It sounded ideal to the Dornaufs, and the concept was proven at test facilities in Sydney and Stockholm. Based on their experience of DeLaval technology, the Dornaufs decided that AMR was the best fit for their dairy farming purposes and they became the first commercial farmers to install an AMR.

Successful three-way grazing

The DeLaval Global Planning Team assisted Dornauf family throughout the entire farm planning process. A lot of focus was put on replicating the three-way grazing method that has been so successful at the Future Dairy test facility at Sydney University. Three-way grazing is an incentive-based, grassland feeding method that involves three large pastures areas. The Dornauf’s voluntary cow traffic system encourages cows to walk up to 1.5 km from the milking facilities with little or no impact on milking frequency and cow performace which is also in accordance to research on the topic.

Typically, three-way grazing works like this: A fenced paddock of pasture in area A is open between 1 am and 9 am. The cows (from area C) are milked between these hours and directed to area A by the smart gates. At 9 am area A is closed and a fenced paddock in area B opens. This is open until 5.30 pm. Once a cow leaves area A for the AMR it is milked and directed to area B. At 4.30 pm any remaining cows in area A are rounded up and led to the AMR. At 5.30 pm a fenced paddock in area C is opened up until 1am. The cows leave area B, are milked and walk to area C. The process is repeated the next day.

Flexible farming

Gala covers an area of approximately 170 hectares. The fenced pasture paddocks within each area measure roughly 3-5 hectares each. Thanks to the fenced paddocks and use of electric ‘break fences’ in the areas, there is a fresh allocation of grass for the cows each time they enter an area. After 20 to 30 days the grazing has gone full circle and the cows are directed back to the original fenced paddock in each area.

The cows at Gala are milked around 2.3 times a day over a 7-day rolling average for most of the lactation. The grazing schedule can, of course, be changed to coincide with shift schedules, seasonal changes, number of milkings, etc. The cows are quick to adapt to such changes – often quicker than farmers. Three-way grazing can also be applied to batch milking systems: the main difference being the herd is split into three equal groups, each dedicated to its own area (farmlet). Cows are collected for milking in a staggered fashion, so as not to overcrowd the milking facilities.

Much more than milking

DeLaval AMR has led to labour savings on the farm. At the Dornauf’s other three farms there are teams of people dedicated to cupping and milking cows. At Gala, shift operators do everything but milk the cows: that’s the dedicated robots’ job. Staff focus on the higher value jobs such as closing down and setting-up new grazing paddocks, collecting any cows left in a paddock at the end of the grazing schedule, tending heifers, you name it.

Many of the health and milk quality checks are also handled by AMR. Milk meters monitor and analyse the milk yield of every cow and every quarter, and create an alert if a cow needs special attention. This, combined with the stockman’s reading of the cows’ behaviour, has proved very effective at Gala. There is a treatment area next to the AMR and cows can be singled out when they exit the rotary. Any treatment and insemination is usually done mid-shift, when people are focused, rather than at the end of the day when operators are tired and thinking about going home.

When a plan comes together

It’s been almost four years since the AMR robots milked the first cow at Gala. “We were entering uncharted territory, milking more than 300 cows in a voluntary pasture based system. By now we have proven that with managing the cows and technology effectively, we are able to milk 600 cows voluntarily with little extra effort,” says Nick Dornauf.

As planned, the herd size and the average milk yield has peaked around 38 litres per cow this season. The animals are used to robotic milking and happily milk themselves. Cow stress seems to be a thing of the past, which is somewhat reflected in the high quality milk and the low somatic cell counts. Staff members also have much more varied working routines. The Dornaufs pride themselves in keeping motivation high and staff turnover at a minimum on all their farms. The technology and voluntary milking is something they believe helps find and retain people in the dairy industry.

Key statistics:

Gala Farm - Australia

Tasmania, Australia


570 cows


Cow Herds


Automated Milking, Rotary, AMR


260 ha

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