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    Future Farm Main Dairy Unit operates commercially to provide a platform for teaching and research.

    The main dairy unit provides accommodation for 400 cows. Cows are milked in a 40-point GEA internal rotary parlour with computerised cow identification that records data such as milk yields and monitors cow activity for oestrus detection. One rotation of the 40-point parlour takes eight to twelve minutes and the target annual yield for the unit is 10,000l/cow, milked three times a day.

    The operators work from the inside of the circular pit enabling them to see all the cows easily and it is an ideal layout for teaching purposes. The farm supports student activities on a daily basis from Rural Skills Sessions and HRP students to PhD projects. The unit also features a parlour viewing gallery and modern cow housing.

    Cow housing incorporates two spacious, light and airy cow housing buildings, aiming to offer the optimum conditions for dairy cow health, especially to maximise ventilation. One building contains an area entirely of cubicle housing and the other provides both cubicles and straw yards. Automatic ventilation screens on some exterior walls react to wind speed helping protect sensitive computerised feeders. Other features of the cow housing:

    • roving feed drones push up feed throughout the day increasing appetites
    • spacious cubicles accommodate the modern large dairy cow with Easy-Fix mattresses
    • cubicles are bedded up three times a week with quality sawdust and hydrated lime
    • slurry is scraped using the recently installed automatic scrapers which scrape along the passways every two hours leading to an underground slurry pit,
    • passageways can be washed using water from tipping water troughs which then refill to provide fresh water for the cows.

    Cow Manager, a management system, is used for heat detection, rumination and eating times as well as providing an early warning system for sub-clinical disease detection. Alongside this will be Bovisync for every day, cloud-based data recording. This will allow fellow colleagues and students across the entire campus access to live data for all dairy cows.

    Trial Area A

    Trial area A is available for up to sixty cows, from the main herd, to feed individually. These cows wear a neck transponder, allowing access to an individual feed unit. The amount of feed eaten can be automatically weighed and recorded thereby allowing a comparison of different diets in the same area with minimum disturbance to the cows. 

    Environmental Considerations

    The dairy unit has been designed with emphasis on environmental sustainability: 

    • Water from the washings in the parlour is channelled back into a holding tank. This water is then recycled for flushing the collecting yard after milking.
    • Rain water is diverted away from stored slurry. The concentrated slurry has a higher nutrient level and less energy is required to transport it.
    • The dairy unit has its own borehole for water. Treated water is only needed to clean the milk plant. This provides a cheaper and more sustainable system.
    • Slurry is separated into a liquor fraction and a solid fraction. The liquor is stored for use on the Harper Adams' farm but the solid fraction is sold as a fertiliser for use elsewhere.
    • Special 'ramping' pumps reduce electricity consumption at milking time as they adapt to the variation in power demand when the number of cows being milked alters.
    • A heat exchanger transfers heat from the milk to pre-heat the hot water system.
    • The level and form of dietary Zn in the dairy cow diet to improve health and performance
    • Encourage the natural grazing behaviour of dairy cows
    • Feed whole crop wheat to dairy cows
    • Determine the effect of high and low tannin peas on dairy cow intake and performance
    • Introduction of foam foot baths to reduce lameness incidence in cows
    • Manage the diet of dairy cows to reduce methane output

    The Environmental Sustainability groups were formed in 2021 and the dairy unit is a proud contributor  to the development and research behind these groups.

    The unit facilitates research projects as part of the Future Farm mission to achieve net-zero by 2030.


    Midlands Dairy Research Centre

    At Harper Adams we also have a precision dairy unit in partnership with Agri-Epi and is the Midlands Dairy Research Centre.

    Further information on this unique collaboration can be found on the Agri-EPI Centre website.

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