A home-made mobile head locking unit, a 70-cow suckler farmer and skilled welder created ten years ago, has proven to be a time and labour-saving invention on his Roscommon farm.
Aidan Kelly, Dysart, sought a way to make the process of AI’ing his herd more efficient, with this being the result after several prototypes.
Previously, the suckler farmer had to bring his then 50-cow herd into his yard to remove animals once heat had been successfully detected for AI.
Speaking to That’s Farming, Aidan Kelly, said:
“I said if I AI cattle out in the field without disturbing them and running them into the yard, it would result in less stress for cows, calves and operators.”
“I thought about this, and it worked 100%. So when I started it first, I did a small bit of work. I left it there for another year before I undertook further work.”
“Then, I went back and got going at it. I kept at it until I got it finished to the spec I wanted to suit a telescopic loader.”
How does it work?
The mobile head locking unit can hold 11 cows, is operated hydraulically and constructed through a 2×2 box section and channelling.
Aidan explained that from the cow’s side, there is a silver barrier covering the locking setting and gates for the handler to use, splitting the mobile head locking unit.
He noted that each space has a width of 14 inches with built-in meal troughs for feeding.
“Once they know there is a bit of meal there, they are going to go for it no matter what. Once they put their heads in, you push the lever, and they are all caught.”
“Their heads are in through the barrier. The hydraulic ram closes down all the barriers together, and you hopefully have the one you want.”
Although the mobile locking unit can restrain 11 cows, he explained that realistically there may up to three cows in heat at one time.
“I often got three animals on a couple of occasions where there were three in heat together. So I got three of them in on the one go by edging around the field.”
“Whatever comes in comes in; once you know the cow that you have to inseminate, you go around and drop the mobile head locking unit in front of her.”
“The mobile head locking unit I have is on a JCB 520 telescopic loader. It could easily work on a tractor and loader.”
Telescopic loader instead of tractor and loader
Aidan constructed a unit of this size to suit a telescopic loader instead of a tractor and loader as he does not own either.
“I said I would make it wide enough in case it needed to be wide. But I think now at this stage; I could have gone with a narrower one, a smaller version, which would not be hard to make.”
“This mobile head locking unit is wider than the gate. You can lift it as high as you want and clear all the obstacles in your way. I can go down a road no bother and go into any fields.”
“If you had one that would do 4 or 5 cows, it would be much handier. You could run it down where there is no mobile head locking unit and into the field, get your cow and use it that way.”
“If I had more time, I would get into making a more useful version, for five cows with a tractor and loader.”
“Then, it would be handier for many farmers, provided they can afford it,” added Aidan, who uses the product to assist with calving cases.
‘Handier for him to AI them in the field’
The mobile unit has transformed the process of AI’ing breeding females on the Roscommon-based enterprise.
Paul Fallon, AI technician at Progressive Genetics, works closely with the 70-cow suckler farmer.
Aidan explained: “He will call me within 15 or 20 minutes before he arrives. Then, I use the mobile head locking unit to restrain the cows for AI; he arrives at the field and artificially inseminates the cow(s).”
Fallon, covering south County Roscommon, said: “This is an option for a person who has an out farm with land away from the house, whereby it is too difficult to be bringing cows up and back.”
“Aidan is gifted that way and comes up with a lot of great ideas. It has given him the option of AI where he would not have had.”
“He would only be able to do AI in the winter months when he had the cattle not away from the house.”
“He is a one-person operation, and his land could be a mile from back to the sheds. So it is a lot handier for him to AI them in the field,” added Fallon, who highlighted that animal temperament is imperative when utilising a unit of this nature.
However, he also highlighted that its suitability depends on individual farming systems.
“I am 26 years at the game, and I have seen nearly everything. We have AI’d cows in every sort of a crush,” he laughed.
Commenting on the video below, Paul said he can AI cows in less than five minutes.