With a greater focus on issues such as sustainability, animal welfare and provenance than ever before, many dairy businesses are seeking better ways to innovate and develop their milking strategies in order to thrive in a changing market.

Anticipating the changes that dairy farms will need to undertake going forward, more and more industry providers are dedicating time and resources towards unlocking that value for their customers.

In some instances, this comes in the form of a new machine accompanied by a succession of extra features. For others, such as Fullwood Packo, a leading international provider of integrated milking and cooling solutions, consistency is key.

Innovation, to us, is a marathon, not a sprint

"Innovation, to us, is a marathon, not a sprint," says product manager at Fullwood Packo Glenn De Buf.

”We take great care to listen to and learn from our farmers and partners. Every piece of feedback we get adds value and is used to drive our milking solutions forward.”

Fullwood Packo has been developing milking robots for over 20 years. Its most recent automated robot – the M²erlin – promises a relaxed milking environment for cows and their farmers, resulting in better results and smoother operation, fitted with advanced smart technology that makes milking more productive and efficient than ever before.

In just the first half of 2020, several notable features have been added to improve the milking experience – all directly based on feedback from farmers.

A cow-first approach

The latest firmware and machine control update has increased attachment speeds, while making them more reliable, for a milking process that is more efficient and pleasant for both the cow and the farmer.

The near-silent arm has also been adjusted for even smoother movement that is less disruptive to the cow without compromising efficacy.

“A cow-first approach is the guiding philosophy for Fullwood Packo,” says Glenn.

“Every decision or change we make considers the cow first. Healthier cows produce healthier milk, which means better quality and overall results for our farmers.”

Improvements in teat brushing and spraying has improved overall hygiene

This focus on superb cow health extends to some of the other new features. Improvements in teat brushing and spraying has improved overall hygiene, as the cows are milked fully and properly for greater overall wellbeing in the herd.

With animal welfare being a priority on any farm, and with increased consumer and legislative focus, creating a pleasant milking environment is more important than ever.

Fullwood Packo has drawn on its long heritage in milking and cooling, backed by its wide-reaching network of partners, to ensure its milking solutions always promote better cow health in a way that supports its farmers and consistently delivers exceptional results.

Smarter milking

M²erlin has been praised by users for its smart features and clever use of the latest tech to refine and streamline milking operations.

New and improved sensors have increased the amount of data collected during milking, which then synchronises with the M²erlinInfo smartphone app for remote access and utilities.

This includes customisable alarms for any issues during milking or cleaning, with farmers now able to set milking benchmarks for their cows and receive alerts if they are not met.

A new teat detection system has also been launched - the TDS2. A reliable and effective sensor, the TDS2 keeps the M²erlin robust and ready for the future, able to handle the often challenging environment of a dairy farm.

The M²erlinInfo app is also receiving constant updates, adding layers of intuitive functions that give farms all the information they need to measure, monitor and maximise their milking.

Every update has to directly benefit your cows and your business

“Innovation has become a buzz word in the industry – but what does it actually mean for farmers?” asks Glenn.

“We are always examining the construction and hardware of the M²erlin in order to make sure that your equipment stays reliable and robust while the cost of ownership stays low.

"We aim to reduce your costs while increasing your profitability – every update has to directly benefit your cows and your business.”

Constantly curious

With more and more dairy farms seeking out a robotic milking solution that meets their needs, Fullwood Packo is clear that it offers support for businesses of all sizes.

“Whether you operate a large-scale or a smaller family-run business with large ambitions, we have a milking solution to suit the needs of you and your cows,” adds Glenn.

“Advances in technology have already transformed the dairy industry, with further changes on the horizon. Innovation is the lifeblood of agriculture.

"Although there will be challenges, exciting opportunities are ahead for both farmers and the wider industry. From greater efficiency to higher yields and increased sustainability, smarter solutions will open up new and valuable pathways for the future of milking.”

Farmer testimonial

Gerard & Angela Brickley, Coolrain, Portlaoise, Co Laois

Gerard and Angela Brickley are pedigree Charolais and Simmental beef breeders who decided to change over to dairying in time to take advantage of the removal of EU dairy quotas, farming an 80 acre grass land farm in one block.

The farm is on the edge of the Slieve Bloom mountains and is surrounded by two rivers. It is susceptible to flooding from both rivers, and the soil is also susceptible to compaction.

“Because of this, and the fact that we were going to try for higher yields, we opted for a mainly indoor system, achieving an average of 2.4 milkings per cow per day.

“As we’re no longer in the first flush of youth ourselves, we decided on robotic milking. It takes all of the heavy and repetitive physical work out of it.

“We initially installed an older secondhand Fullwood Merlin robot, as the new M²erlin was not yet on the market, with the view of replacing this with the M2erlin when available.

"We did this after 12 months and find the M²erlin much easier to work with. Everyone who sees it remarks on the silence of the arm, and we think it is certainly a help in settling in heifers quicker on to the machine. Of course it is also much cheaper to run than the old one.

“We were always trying to maximise income from our limited acreage and so we like to have the genetics in the herd as good as possible, and are forever improving it.

"The M²erlin gives us the tools to select which cows to keep – whether its milking speed, conductivity, production or a range of other traits, we have the individual information on each cow to help us make the selection decisions. Milk volumes last year for all completed lactations were 8,726kg/ cow at 4.26% fat and and 3.52% protein.”

Fleckvieh don’t peak as high or as early in lactation as Holsteins ensuring much better condition in early lactation.

The Brickleys sell stock bulls and surplus in-calf heifers from their pedigree Fleckvieh herd and they are able to show potential buyers accurate production records for the mothers.

“It gives the customers great confidence in the accuracy of the data – volumes, fat and protein %, number of inseminations, calving interval – everything is there at a glance.

“Overall, we’re very happy with the move. The machine supplies great information on the individual cows and, on the rare occasions when there is a malfunction, as all machines do, the backup is always available."

About Fullwood Packo Group

The Fullwood Packo Dairy Group is an international provider of the complete integrated quality milking, cooling and herd management solution for ambitious dairy farmers.

All of its solutions are designed with one core goal: making life better for dairy cows and their farmers, ensuring business is productive and profitable, while cows are kept comfortable and healthy.

Fullwood Packo Dairy Group is a privately-owned enterprise comprising Fullwood Ltd, Fullwood Packo BV, Fullwood NV, Fullwood Packo France SAS, Fullwood Packo CS, Fullwood Packo Ireland, Fullwood Packo BV and Fullwood Packo Innovation BV.

The group is part of Pindustry, the investment company of the Verder Group. The Verder Group employs over 1,850 people and has an annual turnover in excess of €470m.

Fullwood Packo is at the forefront of designing, manufacturing and supplying milking parlours and milk cooling systems: the organisation’s constant investment has allowed it to design and manufacture milking and cooling solutions for almost 90 years.

It has been the proud supplier of over 50,000 farms across 80 countries – giving the brand an unrivalled heritage in the dairy industry.

Fullwood Packo offers a range of milking systems – from conventional herringbone, parallel and rotary parlours to state-of-the-art automated milking robots – as well as milk cooling and storage hardware and herd management software solutions.

For more information, click https://fullwoodpacko.com/ie/constantlycurious/.