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Year-round-calving, new robot milking 2 cows simultaneously and zero-grazing

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The Kingston family are new entrants to dairy, having converted from a beef fattening enterprise.

The Popefield Holsteins herd, situated in Ballylynan, Co. Laois, consists of 115 cows which are farmed as part of an all-year-round calving high-input/output system.  

The existing beef sheds on the 120-acre property, were converted in 2019, which led to the first milking on February 18th, 2020.

29-year-old Ben Goodall, who hails from a dairy farm in New Zealand, holds the position of farm manager, boasting close to fifteen years’ experience in the industry.

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Breeding programme

“Holsteins are high yielding cows and they are well suited to the indoor system like the one we operate.” Goodall told Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.

“We only AI, no stock bulls are used. We give the cows 60 days VWP (voluntary waiting period) before our first serve. We pre-scan any cows that have not come on heat in the first 60 days.”

“We use Holstein as our main bulls and Angus bulls for the bottom 10%. We also aim to have our ECI (expecting calving interval) at around 400.”

“We are calving all-year-round as we plan to have a flat milk curve with 160 cows milking all year.”

Holstein heifers are retained with a view to increasing cow numbers, while bulls and beef-sired calves are sold. They aim to calve heifers down at 22-24 months-old – depending on weight.

The herd is currently averaging 21-litres per cow at 4.39% fat and 3.44% protein. The average DIM (days in milk) is 170 and 90% of the herd are heifers.” explained the farm manager, who added that 30 autumn-calving heifers are due to start calving in September.

Robot

The farm has recently installed a Boumatic MR-D2 Robotic Double box, a new player in the Irish market, which has the ability to milk two cows simultaneously. 

“The BouMatic MR-D2 is a free-flow robotic milking system which milks through the back legs. It is one complete unit with one robotic arm milking 2 cows at the same time.”

“We milk on a free-flow system averaging 2.5 milkings per day. Technology plays a huge role in the running of the farm.”

“We do a lot of zero-grazing and try to have covers of 1400 to 1600 for the zero-grazer and 1600 – 2000 for bale silage.”

“I aim to finish around 6pm but with calving all-year-round, no two days are the same.”

Future

Looking ahead, the installation of a single BouMatic robot in the coming months will allow them to milk 160 cow all-year-round.

“We are in our first year and if everything continues to run smoothly, I see no reason as to why expansion wouldn’t be possible.”

“We are aiming to do 10,000 plus litres per cow and 750kgs MS/cow in the future and to spread the calving equalling throughout the year.”

“As new entrants to dairy farming, we are hopeful that the price of milk will remain stable and if it does, we can see considerable further growth in the sector.”

“The main focus on the farm over the coming years will be to improve milk yield and have better feed quality,” Goodall concluded.

To share your story, email – catherina@thatsfarming.com

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