Derek O’Halleran, a Kenagh, Co. Longford, is a new entrant to dairy farming, having added another string to the bow of his mixed enterprise.
The family-run business, that is O’Halleran Family Farm, had already established a successful free-range egg business over 20 years ago, along with a 180-strong flock of ewes and a calf-to-beef system.
The sheep and the calf-to-beef system have been cast aside in order to facilitate this new venture – a robotically milked dairy enterprise.
The family are currently milking 40 cows with a view to increasing to 60 by the end of 2020 in their year-round calving system.
High-yielding pedigree Holsteins were the breed of choice. Derek plans to retain all heifers and calve them down at 24 months to facilitate the growth of the herd going forward.
Mostly AI will be used for breeding, with some cows and heifers receiving sexed semen, and a stock bull is also at their disposal to serve any repeats.
Although they have only been producing milk since January 6th this year, the current herd average is an impressive 35-litres, with over 25% of the cows producing more than 40-litres.
This level of production has been achieved using a Lely Astronaut A5 robot in the newly built dairy facility and driven by high standards of animal health and welfare.
Derek explained: “You cannot expect animals to perform if you don’t look after their every need. We have a vaccination program in place. Cow comfort, nutrition and hygiene are all equally important.”
“We have Cowcoons and Pasture Mats in place from Wilson Agri. We believe extreme cow comfort and high production go hand-in-hand. The cow’s health and comfort are our main focus.”
With the hope of improving efficiency in the short-term, O’Halleran plans to increase the herd size to match the full working capacity of the robot and further into the future he hopes to install a second machine.
A man who is very optimistic about the future of dairy, he advises there are a few key things to keep in mind to create a successful dairy business.
“Attention to detail is paramount. Educate yourself, every day is a school day.” he concluded.