Dairy farm “Bukas” invests EUR 674.6 thousand in the development and robotization of the farm

January 25, 2022

The farm “Bukas” in Dobele region has implemented a large-scale project for the development of dairy farming through attracted financing from BlueOrange Bank in the amount of EUR 674.6 thousand. The project included the reconstruction of the cowshed building, as well as the installation of modern livestock equipment, allowing full automation of herd management, milking and feeding processes.

As part of the reconstruction project, the main cowshed building was completely rebuilt within two years, adapting it to the latest animal welfare standard requirements. The cowshed is built based on the so-called “warm shed” principle, allowing it to maintain a comfortable temperature of +10 degrees (even in winter conditions) with the help of modern ventilation equipment and without a heating system installed, thus providing welfare of dairy cattle. A significant part of the investment has been spent on the purchase and installation of the latest DeLaval robotic livestock management system. It has allowed to fully automate not only the feeding of cows, but also milking, milk quality monitoring, cleaning and other operations at the cowshed.

“The principle of the automated herd management system is quite simple: there is the cow lying area on one side of the cowshed, and the eating area on the other side. Cows are not tied down and can move freely between the two zones whenever they want. When a cow has lain down and wants to eat, it goes through a one-way gate into the eating area. The robotic device reads the chip, identifies the cow to understand if it is time to milk it. If not yet, the cow goes straight to the eating area, and when it needs to be milked, the cow is automatically redirected to milking, where the robot performs all the actions related to the collection of milk: washing the udder, milking, analysing the quality of milk. For one cow, this whole process takes only a few minutes, and the cowshed can operate in a 24-hour mode,” says the manager of ZS “Bukas” Arnis Kristapsons. 

Automating the processes for the cowshed was a well-thought-out decision of the owners, considering their plans for further development of the farm, as well as the increasingly severe shortage of labour in the countryside. The robotization of the cowshed means that a herd of more than 120 cattle, including 56 dairy cows, can be cared for by only a couple of people who are exempt from heavy physical labour and mostly perform a supervisory function. At the same time, the automated feeding and milking system allows to significantly improve both the milk quality and milk yield. In the coming year, the farm plans to increase the number of dairy cows by another 25%.

The livestock management system collects data on each cow, its milk yield, milk quality and other indicators that allow timely detection of health problems or notice other significant changes. It is also important that the owners can monitor and control all the data vital for the dairy farm at any time using the livestock management application on the phone or computer.

“Modernisation of agricultural holdings and raising animal welfare is the principle that will allow Latvian farmers to improve their competitiveness both locally and internationally in the future, and will ensure the necessary stability. The food industry is one of the industries that managed to demonstrate good performance and growth even during the pandemic. Support for small and medium enterprises, including agricultural financing, remains one of the priorities for BlueOrange,” notes Dmitrijs Latiševs, the Chief Executive Office at BlueOrange. “Over the past year, the bank has allocated EUR 134 million for new business development projects, and this year we will continue to actively lend to entrepreneurs representing various industries in Latvia,” Mr Latiševs adds.

The farm “Bukas” located on 138 hectares in the Dobele region is managed by an experienced farmer Arnis Kristapsons, who has teamed up with his spouse. The couple has been engaged in dairy farming since 1993, although they have tried themselves in other professions and have lived in Riga for many years. They acquired their livestock farming expertise not only in neighbouring countries, but also in Sweden, Denmark and France. Based on their own observations and examples abroad, the owners are convinced that comfortable conditions of keeping livestock are of great importance in increasing milk quality and milk yield – this includes optimal air temperature in the cowshed, controlled feeding depending on the needs of the herd, and the possibility of free movement, which is provided by the latest robotic systems.

Dairy farming is the main activity of ZS “Bukas” and the production is currently mainly sold in Lithuania, in cooperation with SIA “Piena partneri” and AS “Pieno Žvaigždes” — one of the largest groups of dairy companies in the neighbouring country.

The project for the reconstruction and modernisation of ZS “Bukas” is being implemented under the “2014-2020 Rural Development Programme for Latvia” of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, as part of the sub-measure “Support for investment in agricultural holdings” of the “Investment in Material Assets” measure, and some of the funds invested will be recovered after the realisation of the project. BlueOrange Bank provides 100% financing for the project and the loan has been issued for 12 years.