Irish Dairy Gearing Up for Post-Quota Expansion

A trained engineer with a passion for dairy cows is one of many new entrants within the dairy sector targetting growth after 2015.
calendar icon 29 July 2014
clock icon 5 minute read

Three years spent as a civil engineer was halted by the lure of the land for Robert English. This is when he delighted his parents by returning to the farm, although not for beef and sheep, Rob wished to milk cows.

Based in the middle of Ireland, Robert English farms in partnership with his parents Mervyn and Breda at Clonkeen, the Pigeons near Athlone in the picturesque Shannon catchment area.

However, this location can be a problem when the water levels of the nearby Lough Ree are high and up to 60 acres of their land are liable to flooding.

They began supplying milk to Lakeland Dairies from their spring calving herd this year. Previous to that they kept a flock of 200 ewes (Charollais, Texel and Suffolk x) and a herd of 50 suckler cows (Charolais and Limousin crosses). Although Mervyn did milk cows in his younger days after he left Gurteen Ag College.

One of the first in his area to make baled silage, Robert is a member of the Irish Grassland Society

A major investment was required -this included new roadways, a water supply to serve the paddocks along with a new milking parlour on a green field site.

Robert applied for a milk quota as a new entrant and got 150,000 litres. Mervyn and Robert went to see lots of parlours last year over a six month period in Galway, Tipperary and Westmeath.

Robert even went milking cows for three months to ensure that he had the practical experience required to make the best decision on the type of parlour most suitable for their situation.

The 50 heifers which calved down this spring are a mix of Holstein Friesian and Jersey x. They were bought in three batches from farms in Tipperary and Wexford. The target when purchasing was to achieve a high EBI herd (average of €170), with high fertility and milk solids sub indexes.

Robert is a member of the Irish Grassland Association and finds it very beneficial. He is doing a Green Cert course with Teagasc and is also a member of the Teagasc discussion group in Moate. His dairy advisor Patrick Gowing is based in the Mullingar office.

Top quality grass and grass silage system is an integral part of the milk production system. They make all their own silage using their own baler and wrapper. They make two cuts of top quality baled silage and have done so for 22 years.

“We were one of the first in the area to make baled silage” said Mervyn and we make about 800 bales each year. Mervyn said “with our own equipment we can make quality silage cutting the grass when the quality is right for us and when weather conditions are ideal for wilting”.

They are also big into reseeding and last Sept they sowed 40 acres.

A New Milking Plant on Green Field Site in Only Four Months

Building works took 3 months before the parlour was commissioned for milking. “There were very few teething problems, it only took a week to train in the heifers” said Robert.

"It helped that the parlour is so quiet – in fact it is ideal for heifers"

“It helped that the parlour is so quiet –in fact it is ideal for heifers”. Mervyn and Robert milk the cows together as a second person is required for herding the cows.

Robert and Mervyn did all the ground work, welding and roofing of the milking parlour themselves. It helped that they got a grant for the milking parlour and bulk milk tank.

A local builder Lawlor and Hynes Construction did the concrete work and slurry tank. “We were very happy with their work said Mervyn”.

DeLaval Milking Equipment

The new DeLaval parlour has 14 units with room to install an additional 10 units as the herd size expands. All going well, they plan to expand herd size from 50 heifers that have calved down to around 200 cows.

The equipment includes in parlour feeders, an MPC 150 B automatic cluster (ACR) removal system, MC31 clusters, swing over arms and a low line wash system.

“Everybody told us that an ACR system was a big help for a large herd. It is also cheaper to put it in day one” said Robert who is “delighted with the system and the Comfort Start”.

Seamus Goggin, his DeLaval Area Manager points out that “No cow will be over milked or under milked with this innovative ACR system - consistent milking means a lot to the cows.” As each cow is finished the cluster is gently removed without any input from the operator.

Low SSC counts and low mastitis levels are achievable as the system is set to suit each individual herd.

So why chose DeLaval? “Well they have a good track record and the price was competitive” says Robert. “We know the service from their local dealer Christy Pender is going to be good and they have a very strong reputation”.

The cows are at a 50 degree angle while being milked and Robert says that this makes for a faster exit. The parlour has lots of natural lighting, excellent ventilation and the pit has ample room for two milkers to pass each other.

The wide pit makes milking a pleasure and the ACR system takes the pressure off the operator so milking is never a tedious chore.

The parlour is bright and cheerful and an interesting feature is the non-slip red floor which is attractive, easy to clean, more hygienic and long lasting. Carborundum dust was incorporated to make it a non-slip surface.

The DeLaval milking point controller (MPC150) allows ComfortStart, remote cleaning/milking operation, claw drop and individual cleaning preparation.

The MC31 cluster fits nicely in the hand and is easy to work with so this reduces milker stress and fatigue. The vacuum can be started and stopped with one hand.

The cluster is well balanced and fits comfortably on the cow. A 250 ml claw features a big milk outlet to handle high milk flows efficiently and safely. Vacuum fluctuations are also reduced under high milk flows by 12 mm claw milk inlets.

The cows are milking well, the parlour is running smoothly so Mervyn and Robert have time to enjoy a good family lifestyle. Mervyn is a member of Athlone RFC while Robert plays football with his local GAA club in Tang and hurling with the Father Dalton club in Ballymore.

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