For this week’s Dairy Focus, Agriland made the journey to Co. Antrim to satisfy with Conor Casey on his dairy farm close to the city of Cloughmills.
Conor is milking 240 Holstein Friesian cows with 4 GEA robots, in a totally housed system.
There are additionally two poultry sheds on the farm, with seven crops of 36,000 birds produced/yr, which Conor mentioned is a good earnings supply when milk value in down.
Initially a mixed-enterprise farm with dairy and sheep, after attending agricultural school in Greenmount, Conor returned dwelling and started creating the farm alongside his father.
On the time he returned dwelling, the farm consisted of round 40 dairy cows and roughly 200 ewes.
A poultry shed was constructed on the farm, with a manufacturing facility based mostly in Ballymena. Conor mentioned it was a great way of diversifying, because the farm is 600ft above sea degree.
A second poultry shed has since been constructed.
The sheep enterprise was slowly phased out. Conor mentioned that on the time, the worst-performing dairy herd was extra worthwhile than one of the best sheep farms.
The choice was then made to focus extra on the dairy enterprise, with the poultry models supporting this.
The dairy herd was slowly expanded by means of the acquisition of quota; by 2000, the herd had grown to round 80 cows.
In 2005, a brand new GEA 16-unit milking parlour was put in on the farm, with about 120 cows being milked.
By 2008, the herd measurement had elevated to round 150 cows.
Up till this level, the herd would have been grazing.
In 2010, the choice was made to maneuver to a totally housed system. This determination was made for a lot of causes, however the land block across the parlour being 50ac was the important thing issue.
The herd additionally moved to 3 occasions/day milking right now, which elevated manufacturing additional.
A multi-cut silage system was now being operated on the farm, with numbers on the farm persevering with to develop.
In 2017 the farm moved additional into know-how and renewable power, with robots, photo voltaic panels and wind generators.
In accordance with Conor the herd was in between two and three robots, however the contract rearing of the heifers allowed for the set up of three robots and a rise in cow numbers to 200.
A fourth robotic has since been bought and the herd has elevated to 240 cows.
Conor has additionally began rising some cereals to scale back the nitrogen loading on the farm and these crops are used to feed the cows.
On this dairy farm an enormous focus is positioned on silage high quality, with Conor noting that: “Forage high quality is king.”
A multi-cut system is working properly on this regard. Silage is being harvested very 5 weeks in the course of the summer season months.
Which means 4 silage crops are harvested by August, which suggests a fifth will be taken if required.
Mazie and whole-crop are additionally grown to feed the cows and are fed to the cows in a complete blended ration (TMR), with cows fed concentrates within the parlour.
The Carnhill herd is a totally pedigree-registered herd, with Conor specializing in increased index – Worthwhile Lifetime Index (PLI) – kind cows. This has resulted in a requirement for heifers and a lot of bulls being offered into synthetic insemination (AI).
A complete of 12 bulls have been offered into AI from the herd.
“We’re at all times attempting to push genetics, push yields and push worthwhile cows,” Conor mentioned.
Milk is provided from the farm year-round. Cows calve from August to March, with a break taken in the course of the summer season for silage harvesting.
Talking in regards to the cow kind he’s on the lookout for and what he seems to be for when he’s choosing bulls, Conor mentioned: “Traditionally, I’d have been choosing high-PLI bulls, however a few of them I’m simply not as pleased with.
“The index could be very geared in the direction of a smaller-type cow – so I’m now trying extra at American indexes.
“I really feel the cows have misplaced a little bit little bit of milk in the previous couple of years. The PLI index is geared in the direction of well being and fertility which is all good and also you need it, however if you’re a robotic system you need 35L/day on a regular basis of the yr.”
The herd is genomic examined so solely one of the best cows are used for producing heifers.
Wagyu sires are used on cows that aren’t getting used to generate replacements, with sexed semen used for dairy sires.
Each heifer calves and in-calf heifers are offered from the farm every year.
The herd has a median manufacturing of 10,500L, and Conor mentioned that using PLI has meant the parts within the herd are good.
Common protein is 3.4% and fats is 4.35%, with the herd producing on common, 800kg of milk solids.
A key space that Conor is now specializing in with the herd is milking pace.
The common milking pace on the farm is 2.6L/minute, however one of many sheds has a median milking pace of three.6L/minute – which might signifies that a robotic may very well be producing a million litres/yr.
“Milking pace just isn’t one thing you actually take into consideration till you go robotic, however for this technique to work as effectively as attainable it is advisable get cows milked as rapidly as attainable,” Conor defined.
Labour performed a significant position within the determination to maneuver into robots. The thrice/day milking meant that the labour requirement was excessive and in line with Conor, there have been occasions that you’d battle to get folks to take advantage of.
Conor additionally mentioned the robots present higher work-life steadiness.
“All of us wish to work, however we additionally wish to get away for just a few days,” he mentioned.
The choice to go along with GEA robots was aided by the information that had been gained by milking in a GEA milking parlour.
“Our GEA parlour, we had for 15 years, and it was actually dependable, German constructed and it was the identical working gear because the parlour.
“I just like the pit system and handbook attachment for freshly calved heifers and reliability has been actually good and supplier help has additionally been nice,” the farmer mentioned.
The 4 robots are arrange throughout three sheds, with one shed having two robots and the opposite sheds having one every.
The heifers are within the one shed, with the 2 different sheds having cows in them.
Expertise performs a significant position on this farm, as talked about. Together with the robots, all of the cows have well being/warmth detection monitoring collars.
The well being monitoring system was put in the yr earlier than the robots, however Conor believes it’s extra invaluable in a robotic system as you aren’t having contact with cows on a regular basis.
He mentioned the well being monitoring system and the robots imply that he frequently has info on each cow and that sick cows are a lot simpler to determine and deal with.
Sustainability performs a significant position on the farm, with all of the slurry unfold utilizing low emission slurry spreading (LESS) and an elevated give attention to renewable power. All of the poultry litter is distributed to an anaerobic digester.
Commenting on future plans for the farm, Conor mentioned that there aren’t any plans to extend cow numbers a lot additional.
He mentioned that he wish to improve the quantity of cereals that they’re rising, to make the farm extra self reliant.
Conor can also be robotic feeding, which is able to assist save on labour and improve the consistency of the feed.
He’s additionally transferring away from diesel to renewable power that’s generated on the farm.
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