Friday, December 8, 2023
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Moving from 70 to 440 dairy cows

The following article is published in Lakeland Dairies / Teagasc Joint Development Programme’s innovative and informative 28-page booklet.

The booklet contains recommendations, tips and case studies, aimed at making farm life easier for Lakeland Dairies’ milk suppliers.

Nicholas Cooney – New 44-unit rotary

My herd has expanded from 70 cows ten years ago to 440 cows in-calf for 2020. The old parlour had lived its life. Starting as a 10-unit, expanded to a 14 and then to a 20 unit with no alterations to collecting yard and cow flow.

At maximum, there was 280 cows milked in it, which was 14 rows. It was taking over 3.5 hours to milk in the morning and 3 hours in the evening because of the poor cow flow.

With the option to expand to over 400 cows, I knew something had to be done with the milking facilities. I had to move to a greenfield site to improve cow flow and collecting yard space. In essence, I had three options.

Robots, 20+ unit parlour or a rotary parlour

I looked at robots, but they were not for me. The initial set-up cost to milk 300 cows would require five robots. This limited the possibility of milking more cows as an additional robot would need to be purchased.

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I had concerns over the presumed labour saving in an outdoor grazing system. I actually think I’d always be on call with a robot.

I considered the Herringbone parlour – either a 26-unit or a 40-unit parlour. It would have been better than I had before, but the 26-unit wouldn’t speed up milking time to justify the investment.

The 40-unit would require two operators which aren’t always available and wouldn’t reduce the hours worked on the farm.

Milking times

I chose to build a 44-unit rotary parlour because of labour efficiency. One operator can milk 270 cows to 300 cows per

hour. Current milking times for 420 cows are 1hr 45mins in the morning and 1hr 30mins in the evening.

There are an additional 30 minutes per milking in the spring to milk the colostrum and antibiotic batch. When the rotary was installed in 2018, I never expected my herd size to exceed 400 cows.

The rotary has allowed me to capitalise on opportunities to milk more cows and expand further.

The rotary is a big investment and requires a lot of financial planning, but it was the best decision I made on my farm to reduce labour requirements and improve my quality of life.

More content will be posted from this booklet in this coming days.

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