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Taking a family dairy farm to the next level

Published: 18th June 2020

A new dairy, funded by AMC, is helping family-run Beckside Farm take milking to the next level.

Beckside Farm may have a history dating back more than 300 years, but the family-run dairy farm’s milking facilities are ultra-modern thanks to support from AMC.

The farm, which is located in Cumbria and covers 600 acres, is run by Robert Morris-Eyton with his mother, wife and son. Historically it has been a mixed farm, but in recent years has focused on dairy, with a herd of 250 cows providing around 2.5 million litres of milk a year.

Future-proofing the farm

“When my son Patrick became a partner in the farm in 2017, he was keen to develop our dairy arm,” says Robert. “We did an appraisal of the business and it was clear that our dairy operation was more resilient than other areas and had the most potential for growth. The only problem was that our existing milking facility was dated and wouldn’t have been able to support any expansion plans.”

After considering various options, including expanding the existing facilities and investigating robotics, Robert and family decided to build a new, state-of-the-art milking facility on a four-acre greenfield site on the farm.

“It was a substantial investment,” says Robert. “But we were confident in the future of milk and wanted to create a facility that would not only improve efficiencies and deliver higher levels of staff and cow welfare, but also have a positive environmental impact.”

State-of-the-art milking

Beckside’s expanded herd moved into the new 54-point high specification Waikato rotary parlour and 350-stall cubicle shed in September 2019 after a tight six-month construction period. The benefits were evident immediately. Milking time has dropped from an average of 3.5 hours to 2 hours and mastitis cases have significantly reduced.

The new facilities also mean that milking can be done three times a day, with amended shift patterns delivering shorter working days. This has provided everyone with a better work-life balance.

“The new system is really efficient,” says Robert, “and feedback from workers is that they are enjoying the shorter days. The new parlour also means we’re able to optimise the cows’ performance while maximising their comfort.”

“Cow welfare was at the top of our agenda,” he adds. “When designing the building we were conscious of the need for good ventilation, with plenty of space to allow the cows to move around combined with a comfortable bed. The pattern printed into the concrete provides an excellent high grip surface with sloped floors so any liquid flows away.”

Going green

Another key element of the new parlour is its sustainable features. All lighting is provided by LEDs, which optimises energy usage while ensuring the cows have the optimum level of light to promote fertility.

The facility also makes use of a heat pump, which provides hot water for washdown and powers the underfloor heating in the office.

The farm already used a run-of-the-river hydroelectric system, and this was able to feed into the new building, so most of the power comes from renewable sources.

“We wanted to optimise our use of power as much as possible,” says Robert. “We recycle the heat produced during the milk cooling process and use it to pre heat the washing water.”

A helping hand from AMC

“When it came to funding the new facilities, we approached AMC as we had used them before and we found that once again the whole process went smoothly and they were very easy to communicate with,” says Robert.

“This project is very much about investing in and future-proofing a business, which is what AMC is all about,” says Alick Jones, Regional Agricultural Manager at AMC.

“The team at Beckside had a well-thought out, commercially viable plan and we were pleased to be able to support it and help them deliver state-of-the-art, sustainable facilities.”

“We’re hugely proud of what we have done with the dairy and it sets us up brilliantly for the future,” says Robert. “Our suppliers and end consumers can be assured that the welfare of our animals and staff is paramount and was prioritised throughout this project.”

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