T H White has joined forces with Wiltshire College & University Centre to create a state-of-the-art robotic dairy parlour at Lackham College.

When it is installed, the new equipment will support the development of a new undergraduate dairy engineering qualification.

The course, scheduled to begin in September, will be based at the College’s Lackham Campus near Chippenham where the 1,700-acre site is home to three working farms.

The existing 140-cow dairy unit will be augmented with a new robotic milking parlour.

T H White, a DeLaval dealer for southern England, will supply two of the latest DeLaval VMS V300 robotic milking units, an advanced Bauer slurry control system, plus a day/night LED lighting system.

The complete project will be controlled by highly sophisticated DeLaval software.

College principal Amanda Burnside said: “We are very proud to have designed and created a dedicated dairy qualification for the sector, aimed at students with a passion for agricultural technology, engineering, science and automation.

“The new facilities we are building at Lackham, backed by £9 million funding from the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, will be the envy of other farm automation learning providers and will, no doubt, create an amazing training environment for our students”.

She said students will be introduced to the remarkable technological advancements that are revolutionising the UK dairy industry.

They will be able to study engineering and automation in a real-world environment against a background of business management and animal husbandry.

The full-time two-year course will lead to a Level 4 BTEC Higher National Diploma, or a part-time Higher National Certificate.

With an entry requirement of a Level 3 qualification in a relevant subject, many of which are already offered at Lackham, the course could be particularly attractive to 16-18-year-olds who wish to pursue a rewarding career path.

Plans for the partnership between the College, T H White and DeLaval have progressed during 2019 and a formal agreement of the joint co-operation has been signed. T H White will support the course with lecture sessions and work experience placements.

The initiative is now only subject to planning consent for which an application has been submitted with a decision expected in March.

The College hopes to have open the new facility and teaching rooms after the course starts in September.

As well as installing the new robotic parlour, T H White chief executive officer Alex Scott and other senior team members will discuss business development and innovation in agriculture.

The company’s head of dairy Nigel Ellis will cover the latest in robotic milking, feeding, fertility and other strategies for increased milk yield.

Mr Scott said: “We believe this initiative is exactly what is required to address the skills gap in the dairy sector.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the College, as well as industry innovator DeLaval, to make it happen.

“The course will lay a pathway to an attractive career combining technology and farming.”

To expand the range of studies, T H White will provide several work experience placements and offer student access to the company’s Frome-based business, from where its dairy team operates.

Ciaran Murphy, of DeLaval, sees the new course as a great opportunity to attract more technically-minded young people into the dairying industry.

He said: “DeLaval pioneered the voluntary milking system and today’s robotic arm on the VMS V300 units is quite something to see in action!

“Not only does it reduce labour requirements, making milking quick and efficient, but it is also comfortable for the cow.

“Integrating it with our herd navigator software enables constant monitoring of many health and reproductive factors for each animal, resulting in optimum herd management and higher yields.

“By participating in the partnership at Lackham, DeLaval can provide students with the hands-on experience and technical knowledge that will give them a strong career advantage in this fast-changing area of farming.”

To learn more about the College’s Dairy Engineering Course at Lackham or to apply for a place, go to www.wiltshire.ac.uk. Applications are now open.