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Home Dairy Farmer's Diary: Moving back from robotics to a conventional parlour
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Farmer’s Diary: Moving back from robotics to a conventional parlour

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David McNamee works in Bavanmore Farms, Killean, Co. Armagh. The farm is a high-input, indoor system with 126 cows calving all-year-round.

Last week’s performance: Volume: 5,217 litres; Butterfat: 3.86%; Protein: 3.16%; Lactose: 4.78%; SCC: 338000; TBC: 138000.

We moved from a robotic system to a milking parlour in December 2019. The old robots have been removed in the last week and the plan is to install a 3-way drafting facility. 

The cows adapted very well to the new system and one person was completing the milking on their own after 2 weeks. The milking parlour has experienced an increase of 500-600 litres daily from the same number of cows. This is due to the 10-year-old robots struggling to milk the high producing cows.

It has been a smooth transition with no problems apart from a few teething issues regarding the automatic wash system. The parlour is a GEA 16-unit EuroClaas 800 with PosiSwing arm and Apollo Milk system.

The Apollo milk system applies a post-dip product in-liner around each teat before the ACR is activated. This saves labour and time in the parlour and provides great peace of mind for the operator. Cows are indoor milking relatively well on 3rd cut silage from September 2018.

Milk is collected every 2 days. Milk solids are under pressure at the minute; they have dropped significantly with the switch to third-cut silage.

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TBC’s are on the decrease following a problem with the automatic wash system which has since been sorted. SCC is also on the decrease having identified high SCC cows from the latest milk recording.

There are 40-acres of pasture beside the parlour which will be grazed by the low-yielding group once the first cut has been completed and aftergrass is available. This will ease the demand on a depleting silage reserve.

Breeding

Breeding performance to date: 126 cows total; 25 open; 24 served in the last 30 days; 45 pregnant; 7 culls (barren); 25 dry; 124 heifers. 

In terms of breeding, all heifers are bred to Holstein sexed semen. High genetic merit cows and first lactation heifers (depending on quality) also receive sexed Holstein straws. Lower genetic merit cows receive Angus, Hereford or Belgian Blue straws. 

Cows are scanned and metrichecked weekly to identify problem cows. Non-cycling cows >48 days in milk receive CIDRs to help reduce the calving interval. Cows not pregnant greater than 120 days in milk are not bred and will be culled from the herd.

This gives us at least 3-4 cycles to AI the cow to give her the best chance of staying in the herd. 3 heifers have calved in recent days, dropping 3 sexed Brewmaster calves. There are 4 more due in the next week.

Grazing

Silage ground is struggling for bulk in comparison to previous years; this is due to a couple of factors.

Firstly, the cold spring haltered growth and fieldwork operations. Secondly, the soil analysis in January revealed swards in need of lime, with many results <6.0pH. The poor spring haltered us from rectifying this problem. 

200 acres will be cut and ensiled within the next 10 days. A new silo has been built to store the silage following clamp splitting last year. 

Grass received around 2500 gallons of slurry in early February and 175kg/ac of 22-0-11+S on 26th of March. An annual chickweed problem was also treated with herbicide on the 22nd of April. The result seems to be a high quality however low in bulk sward. 

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