Farm robotics firm Lely has hit its 300-robot milestone in Northern Ireland - with a further 20 expected to be installed in the coming weeks.

While each machine can milk 60 cows - meaning many farms will have more than one Astronaut - the figure is particularly impressive given there are just under 2,700 dairy farmers in the region.

Labour issues

Jim Irwin, general manager of Lely Center Eglish, said: "Our target whenever we started was to do 1% of the market every year.

"If you've around 2,700 dairy farms in Northern Ireland, with an average of two robots per farm, that's 54 robots per year.

"Labour is becoming a bigger issue on farms, so there's more interest in robotics - reliability has really improved over the last few years."

The new model includes a new hybrid arm, faster attachments, and is also said to be quieter and more user-friendly.

AgriLand attended the launch of the A5 over at Lely's Dutch headquarters.

Milking live

The firm returned to Balmoral Show once again with its 'milking live' demonstration.

Despite coming just weeks after the launch of the A5, the Lely team was unable to bring a working version of the new robot to the show because customers have already snapped up the first few models to reach Irish soil.

Irwin said that the firm was constantly working on improving existing models, taking 10 areas on each model to research and improve with the next model.

The cows on the stand this week belong to Alistair McCullough from Broughshane, Co. Antrim.

McCullough is currently milking 90 cows, averaging around 30L per day with an average of three milkings a day.

He has two Lely Astronaut A4s. The first was installed in August 2012 and the second just two years later.

The cows have an average lactation of 198 days with 4.35% butterfat and 3.47% protein.