Laproma Farm, Germany

Laproma Farm near Erfurt, Germany, is at the forefront of dairy farming. As the first German farm to invest in a DeLaval AMR™, in 2011 they have noted incredible results. When compared to their existing conventional milking parlour, milk harvesting costs are much lower, milk price per litre is higher, and milker workload and milking time per cow are greatly reduced. And that’s just for starters.

As we approach the Laproma Farm, the first thing we notice is its size. Covering an area of appr. 3,000 hectares, it includes an office block, two giant milking plants and bio-energy recycling systems. 

State-of-the-art barn design

We begin the AMR tour in one of two state-of-the-art barns that provide the latest in cow comfort. There is no doubting the importance of cow health and longevity here, these cows are a valuable commodity and are treated so. The first barn, which went into full production in April 2013, houses 350 cows, all bread on the farm. The second almost identical barn is on the other side of the building with 400 cows, and in-between them lies the nursery, treatment area and DeLaval AMR milking system. 

There’s no doubting the importance of cow health and longevity here, these cows are a valuable commodity and are treated so.

The barn, which was designed by the DeLaval planning team along with support from staff at Laproma and an external local planning office, is extremely well ventilated, keeping it cool in the middle of summer. Large troughs of fresh water and swinging cow brushes are located throughout the barn, while automatic manure cable-scrapers travel up and down the alleys.

As we wander through the barn it’s easy to forget that there are hundreds of cows in there. “The cows are very calm,” says Farm Director Mr. Kirchner, our host for the day. “It’s something we noticed from day one with the new barn. It just goes to show that if you treat your cows well they will respond in the way you want them to and produce lots of high quality milk.”

“… when I saw the AMR at Eurotier I knew it was what we wanted. It’s the perfect blend of technology and the human factor.”

The ideal milking technology

We pause half way down the barn at a hoof-trimming station, where several cows are having their hooves trimmed. Each cow at Laproma has a thorough hoof examination every six months. At this point Mr Kirchner explains his theory on technology in farming. “I’m all for technology, it’s making farming a lot better for all concerned. But you can’t take away the human factor. We were originally considering investing in milking robots, 12 in total, but when I saw the AMR at Eurotier I knew it was what we wanted. It’s the perfect blend of technology and the human factor.”

“The AMR automatically milks the cows and cleans and disinfects the teats, giving our staff time to perform other important tasks. However, staff members still get to cast an eye over each cow every day, either when the cows are collected or when they are on the AMR. I believe the human eye sees different things to technology and in farming that’s essential.”

“The AMR automatically milks the cows and cleans and disinfects the teats, giving our staff time to perform other important tasks.”

Self-sufficient farming

As we reach the end of the barn Mr Kirchner points to the feed and describes the daily feeding regime on the barn. “The cows are fed once a day at the farm. The turning and pushing is done every fourth hour by a milker when the cows are on the AMR. 90% of the feed is produced on the farm, the rest has to be bought in, but that’s only because we can’t grow those types of crops in our local conditions.”

Grabbing a handful of feed he continues: “At the end of the feeding cycle we’re left with around 3-5% waste-feed. This is recycled in our bio energy system. The whole feeding process is very self-sufficient.”

The 13 minute milking revolution

Finally, we get to see the AMR, and it’s a striking sight. The cows that have been collected from the barn wait in line to be milked on stress-relieving rubber flooring. As they enter the AMR, state-of-the-art four of the five task specific robots prepare the teats for milking and attach the cups. From our viewpoint up above the AMR we follow what goes on in the milking room for one full rotation. A thirteen minute journey that fully milks each teat of a cow without over milking, thanks to four quarter milking.

 

“No more back-breaking work, a wide range of responsibilities – anything from cow management to calf care and cow collection and milking – all in the same shift.”

 

It’s impressive to see the cows chewing contently as they’re milked, while the “milker” walks around taking the monthly milk samples. The milker then process the samples, hoses down the AMR, and checks the cows and the milking system via the touchscreen. “As you can see milking isn’t what it used to be,” continues Mr. Kirchner. “No more back-breaking work and a wide range of responsibilities – anything from cow management to cow collection and milking. And everything gets done in a shift. There’s no need for enforced overtime.”

It’s no wonder staff turnover is next to zero at Laproma and filling any new position now involves selecting the best applications from dozens of potential employees. But what’s even more impressive is the comparative results between the AMR and the existing parlour at the farm.  

Getting much more with half the resources  

“Having an old parlour on the farm and also the AMR, means we can compare the difference between the two systems. In the old parlour we spend a total of 38 hours per cow per year, while in the AMR it’s just 20 hours. That’s almost a 50% saving in man-hours. The total cost to produce a litre of milk is around four cents lower with the AMR, and we get paid one to two cents more per litre due to the higher fat and protein content of the milk. Also the cows in the AMR barn are currently producing around 1,000 litres more milk per cow per year.  And the amazing thing is that we believe these results can improve as the cows in the AMR barn increase in maturity."

 

“The total cost to produce a litre of milk is around 3-4 cents lower with the AMR, and we get paid one to two cents more per litre due to the high higher fat and protein content of the milk.”

 

After a full revolution of the automatic milking rotary if a cow is still being milked or she has kicked off a cup, she can be diverted back to the AMR, via a VIP queue. Otherwise she leaves the milking point and walks back to the barn. On the way she will pass four sort gates where she can be separated for attention.

As for the milk, it is transported to a DeLaval cooling tank system to await collection. It’s not there for very long though. Tankers arrive on the farm fourteen times per week to take the high quality milk to the dairy.  

The ultimate modern dairy farm

As we say our goodbyes, Mr Kirchner reflects on what DeLaval AMR has meant for the farm and all those connected with it. “There are 287 shareholders in this business, and all seem pleased with what we’ve achieved here. Our staff members are happy; in fact we’re among the best employers, as far as dairy farms go, in the region. The cows are also content, and very productive, and the milk they are providing is high quality. This is what modern dairy farming should be like. You have to see it to believe it.”

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