132-cow dairy farmer, Denis Condron, was one of the first in Ireland to install a Lely Discovery Collector.
The Offaly native ventured into dairying six years ago and embraced robotics by purchasing two Lely Astronaut robots and a Lely Discovery Collector.
He explained how he grew his enterprise from humble beginnings: “We started off with one robot and had 66 heifers on it the first year.”
“We put in a second robot the following year and pushed it up to 132 cows in year five. In year two, we extended the shed and invested in a Lely Discovery Collector to vacuum up slurry.”
The “revolutionary” Discovery Collector is specifically designed for sheds/barns with solid floors. It does not push manure; it vacuums it.
The Collector will vacuum up slurry as it drives over solid passages and dumps it as it drives over slatted areas.
The Discovery 120 Collector navigates independently utilising built-in sensors. The company claims that a big benefit is the elimination of a manure pool in front of the machine, resulting in animal friendlier environments for cows.
This not only results in a cleaner floor but also prevents cows from standing in manure up to their dew claws, as is the case when a manure scraper is used.
“The main reason why we got this was because, in the summertime, there would be a lot of muck in the big passageways in front of the robots where cows stand.”
“The slatted tank is the whole length of the shed and is in an L-shape. The Discovery can go the full length of the shed, which is 120ft. The Discovery goes under gates etc, and works away on its own, vacuuming slurry into a 320L tank.”
“When the tank is full, it goes and empties onto the slats. The Collector sprays water from its back and front.”
According to Lely, spraying from the front results in better manure intake and from the back to leave behind a wet floor for additional grip.
This water is tanked independently and is stored in two water bags in the manure tank. As the manure tank gets filled, the volume of the water bags decreases, freeing up more space for manure.
Cows can easily move past it, and the Discovery Collector can drive below the sorting gates.
Running cost and cleaning programme
In a statement explained, Lely explained that the farmer could adjust the machine’s cleaning programme to suit the farm’s daily rhythm.
The farmer continued: “There are 150 cubicles in the shed; it cleans it four times daily during the winter. Electricity-wise, the cost of it is about €80/year. It just charges a battery.”
“This is our fourth year now, and the battery is working perfectly. We keep it clean, and we replaced its rubbers once, after two years. Lely Center Mullingar services it once a year.”
“Overall, I am happy with the way it works, with no breakdowns,” he concluded.