Gone are the days of waking up at 4am to milk cows and the robots have removed the equivalent of half of one full-time employee from the milk shed daily. This allows Moira and Rob to spend time on other jobs around the farm, including growing their kiwifruit business.
Milk production jumped about 30% in the first season with robots, compared to conventional once-a-day milking.
Moira and Rob installed the Lely Astronaut A5 robotic milking system on their Opotiki farm in 2020. Three robots milk 230 cows.
Rob told Dairy News that robotic milking was something they were interested in for years. However, it took him two years to convince Moira.
"Eventually, Moira was convinced by the good things about it - not getting up early and health reasons for the cows.
"Also, she saw the benefits with her own eyes: we visited a few farms with robots and then Moira got fully convinced."
Moira says she has noticed the cows happier and more independent. Installing the robotic system meant a bit of learning on the part of the cows but Moira says they picked things up quickly.
"The very first time we put all the cows through the robot, we literally had to push every cow into the robotic staff. One of the biggest things for us is that our shed is on top of a hill, so one of the scariest things was whether they'd bring themselves to the shed, having to walk up the hill.
"The cows did though, and they're a lot happier and quieter."
She says the cows are now happier and more relaxed in a free traffic system.
"They're 100% free to move around the farm. They're also free to come and get milked wherever they want. You're teaching them to be more independent."
The robots don't only milk the cows but provide the farmers with information on cell count and health status of each cow.
"We've got so much information at our fingertips now," Moira says.
"It tells you everything that's been going on with the cows, how active they are, when they're coming backwards and forwards from the shed.
"The robots also help us daily with information on cell count and breeding. Seeing the quality per milking and animal health, picking up sick and lame cows earlier and treating [them] before it is getting worse. There's also is a cost-saving."
Moira and Rob will be sharing their success with robotic milking at an open farm day on December 6.
What: Anstis Open Farm Day
Where: Amokura Road, Opotiki
When: December 6, 10am to 2pm
Registration is required with limited spaces available.
To register visit https://www.lely.com/nz/events/anstis-open-farm-day