Heritage farm - New Zealand

Key statistics

  • Herd size: 94
  • Location: Papakura, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Type of animals: Cows
  • Milking system: Automatic milking
  • Region: Oceania
The first organic, all-pasture fully automated milking dairy farm in the world.

The Yates family is using the DeLaval Voluntary Milking System in an otherwise entirely pasture-based system complying with New Zealand organic standards.


David Yates started dairy farming with his brother in 1977. They milked the cows in a rotary and since David had faith in dairy farming he wanted to continue milking, but he was looking for a solution where he wouldn’t be stuck in the shed all day, and that is when he took a closer look at automatic milking.

Organic milking

Fonterra pays 1.05 NZ$ above for the organic milk. They are certified organic since 2005, but they have been spray-free since the 1980’s. The production has dropped, since they use no fertilizer and have a lower stocking rate, but they save money on vet bills, since the cows are very healthy, and they don’t apply dry cow therapy. Animal health is high priority at the Heritage farm, and they believe that prevention is better than cure.


They are milking 94 cows with two robots at present (November 2010); and they are planning to milk 180 cows in 2011.

The farm is 140 hectares, divided into three grazing areas of 30ha = 90ha plus 50ha of support land and unproductive land.

Average milksolids per cow is 350kg.

Calving is split – with one half calving beginning 20th March, April, May and the other half calving beginning 20th August, September, October

The fresh cows get milked twice per day and the others 1-1,5 times per day.

The challenge is to keep the costs low, since this is a pasture-based system, and still manage to motivate the cows to visit the robots. They feed 300 gr maize per day per cow in the robot, making 100-120 kg/cow/lactation. They plan to grow their own maize in the future, to reduce costs.

The aim is to optimize production per hectare, per robot and per cow. They have reduced one labour unit.

The principles of good pasture management is the same, but the way you apply these principles change, as the cow traffic is key in this system.

They have a one hour guaranteed response time for service, and they also apply preventive maintenance to avoid unwanted disturbances.

Equipment Overview

Installed on the farm are two voluntary milking stations (VMS) with the provision for a third station in the future. Milk is transported into a buffer tank (BCC) which allows it to be pumped and cooled in the most energy efficient way; milk is cooled via water pre cooling and then via glycol instant cooling, delivering milk to the bulk milk tank at 3 degrees C. In doing so, it is passed through an energy recovery system that allows water to be stored in vats at 45-50 degrees C.

  • Automatic washing and drying of the cows’ teats
  • Laser/camera guidance of udder and teat shape and position, allowing accurate cup placement on teats up to 45 degrees
  • Optimum milking time for each animal, allowing complete milk-out without over milking
  • Automatic teat disinfectant
  • High-pressure wash-down of each unit after milking
  • Blood and conductivity sensors for mastitis detection
  • Temperature data logging of milk
  • Automatic cleaning of the lines
  • Diversion of mastitic and antibiotic milk to a separate collection point
  • Production information for every cow and quarter including expected quantity and flow-rate
  • A complete computerised information system allowing detailed records for every cow in the herd

Automatic milking

Management guidelines for pasture-based AMS farms

Interview made in November 2009