|Number of cows:||80|
|Milking system:||1x MR-D1 with robot arm, fetching two cups at once|
|Average production:||33 liters / cow /day|
|Milkings per day:||3,2|
Just a few kilometres from the head office of BouMatic Robotics in Emmeloord, in Rutten, lies the farm belonging to Frans van Aart and his family. Frans runs the company on his own; his wife Thecla works four days a week as a psychological nurse. Daughters Cariene , Sjanna and Inge live and work or study in Enschede, Leiden and Groningen respectively. The only ‘descendant’ who regularly works on the dairy farm is son Marijn . He lives just a few minutes away in Marknesse and works as a Technical Dealer Manager for BouMatic Robotics – quite handy really!
Transferring to the use of a milking machine was vital for Frans van Aart. “I had to stop milking as a result of eczema. Hiring someone in to do the task is simply not financially feasible so a choice had to be made: close the company or buy a milking robot.
The deciding factor for Frans was his faith in the company. “My old milking equipment was supplied by the sister company BouMatic and I had faith in the people that had developed this stall."
Frans sums it up: “I am more flexible in terms of my work. I also save on labour; I can save several hours each day. It’s not that I no longer have to do anything; there's always plenty to do on a farm. But I can divide my time up for myself now, and I don’t need to spend six hours milking. The race against the clock, which is how it used to be, is now over. Now, I make sure I’m around by seven o’clock when the machines are being cleaned. When I get up, I have a wander around the barn and then go in and eat my breakfast without rushing.” Thecla laughs: “Frans even makes breakfast now! And we eat it together. That never used to be the case because he was busy milking from six to half past seven. Nevertheless, the automatic milking machine hasn't eliminated all of the work. Frans still has to care for a living herd; feeding and checking them, keeping an eye on animal health, working the land and cleaning – he still has plenty of work to keep him busy. The machine just removes the most labour."
Otherwise, Frans can only come up with benefits. Like milk production for example which, after a minor reduction during the introductory period (which is normal), has now risen.
Thecla also adds: “An important improvement for me has been the fact that the cows can decide for themselves when they need to be milked. This makes the system much more user-friendly. Previously, they were ‘sought out’ by us twice a day but now they choose the moment themselves. The cows’ movements are determined by the herd. The order which is established is natural and we have noticed that it is now much calmer in the barn.”
Finally, there are a few aspects, which are unique to the BouMatic Robotics system, that Frans would like to highlight. “Firstly, the machine is open. When a cow comes into the stall, it can be seen from two sides. This is important for me but also for the cow. They can see cows to their left and right and feel like they are still in the herd; this makes the cows feel secure.” Thecla expands: “A herd animal is a flighty animal; cows always like to know they can run away. They would be much less willing to walk into a closed system.” The fact that the cows are milked through their back legs is also picked up by Frans as an important factor when choosing the BouMatic Robotics system. Another major advantage is that the MR-D1 can be read out at three different locations: on the machine, on the PC in the office or on your mobile phone. “If you’re not in the barn, you can still see what’s going on with your mobile phone.” And last but not least, he adds: “The plug & play nature of the system meant that the machine fitted into the stall without me having to make any structural adjustments. If I ever need to move to another stall, the machine can be ‘packed up’ and installed elsewhere. This is a huge advantage.”
Frans and Thecla are still clearly delighted with their decision to go with the MR-D1. With a smile, Thecla finishes: “I am still very proud that we were the first to have the machine in our barn. It was a major event at the time: in the beginning, everyone came to look at it. They arrived in bus-loads and we even had some interest from Canada and America. We even set up a visitor’s book at one point. It is a bit calmer now but it remains a beautiful device. A little miracle!”