THE Martin family has been farming at Nunton Farm, a few miles south of Salisbury, since 1929, when John Martin established the business with 29 cattle.

Today Simon, John’s grandson, has built up the herd to 720 and has recently installed a rotary parlour which can take up to 1,000 cows per milking and represents a significant investment.

But the best thing to come out of the installation is that it makes it financially viable to allow Simon’s son John to remain working on the farm.

It has also enabled the business to employ an apprentice, Ashley Chandler, to help dairyman Rob Bury.

The new parlour was officially opened last Friday by recently-elected NFU deputy president and south Wiltshire farmer Minette Batters and Salisbury MP John Glen.

Ms Batters said: “Seeing this new parlour in operation shows that ‘big’ can be welfare- friendly.

“Over the generations, four now, there can’t be a farming family in the area which has done more for the environment and biodiversity of the River Avon.”

The rotary parlour has 70 “points”. The cattle are only too willing to enter their station – probably because they know already (and they have not been using the parlour long) there is food waiting for them.

The only human involvement is the attachment of the clusters, but an automatic cluster removal system, whereby the clusters sense when a cow is empty, does the rest.

After milking, Rob and Ashley disinfect the teats. It takes about two hours for the two of them to complete the operation.

The new system, a Milfos 70- point rotary parlour, came from New Zealand, which Simon Martin visited, as well as Australia, to see the various systems on the market. He plumped for the Milfos which arrived with all the components packed in one container just over a month ago. Then the hard work began.

The system should pay for itself over the next 15 years.

Simon said: “We are the only sizable dairy between here and Christchurch.

“Most farming in this area is beef, sheep and cereals.

“It has been a big decision but you have to take big decisions in farming these days.

“Hopefully it will ensure the viability of the farm for future generations.”

Nunton Farm sells its milk to Dairy Crest, which is currently paying a farmgate price of 33p/litre.

Simon said: “It is nervewracking never knowing what will happen with the price. I wish these huge dairy companies knew how much stress it induces.”