In Focus: Waterford farm family prepare for dairy expansion

IN FOCUS: Near the beautiful Suir river valley at Rath, Carrick-on-Suir, County Waterford, Peter Keane and his wife Margaret have a spring calving herd of 300 pedigree Holstein Friesian cows. These are run on commercial lines and milk is supplied to Glanbia Plc. All bull calves are sold at around two weeks so the farm focus is entirely on profitable milk production.

Cows average 1,450 gallons/6,600 litres at 426 Kgs of milk solids. This dairy farm is a grass based commercial system (900 Kgs of meal are fed per cow) and the winter forage is grass silage along with 43 acres of wholecrop.

About 15 per cent of the land is reseeded every year and the wholecrop is part of the reseeding programme. Barley is planted and undersown with grass seeds. Peter is going for a dense sward which can take cow traffic.

Calving interval is 385 days with 15 per cent empty cows so herd fertility is good. They use a Belgian Blue or Angus bull on cows not being bred for replacements. The Keanes are Teagasc clients and their local dairy adviser based in Dungarvan is Seamus Kearney who they describe “as exceptional”.

High-tech plant and equipment
The equipment in this high-tech plant includes Auto cow ID, an ACR (auto cluster removal) system, milk recording, MP 580 Alpro herd management system and Harmony light weight clusters. Other accessories include DeLaval in parlour feeders and retention bars. There is also a computerised feed to yield system and the DSG3 drafting gates which make AI work, dosing, vaccination and so on a cinch.

Peter and Margaret have one full-time employee and David McNamara has been their herdsman for the past four years. They find him to be a very reliable and diligent worker.

“The cows are very content in their individual stalls –no bullying or harassment while being milked. The new facilities have created a cleaner and less stressful environment for the cows which minimises the risk of transmittable and production diseases,” said Margaret.

More cows milked-less time and labour required
“We are saving 3-4 hours a day and it’s very labour saving. We got our lives back and our family were able to go on a holiday for the first time in years,” she said.

According to Andrew Reece, DeLaval Sales director: “As herd size increases here this labour saving milking system will gain in popularity”.  Andrew pointed out that DeLaval have gained a great deal of experience worldwide with rotary parlours over the past 25 years.

“The new parlour is bright and clean –a much better working environment, milking is a pleasant operation, animal comfort is greatly improved, cows come in much quicker and spend far less time in the collecting yard,” she said.

Even with increased cow numbers, milking and cleaning is now a one person operation.  This allows Peter and Margaret more time for herd and farm management as the hi tech equipment makes this system perfect for a one person operation.

Hardship in old parlour

Milking used to take seven hours a day in the old 14 unit DeLaval plant. Some cows could be waiting three hours or more to be milked so not good for their feet.

“A very laborious system and we had no family life” said Peter.  The couple have four children Maeve 16, Emily 13, Peter 11 and Grace 7 and spending time with them was a priority.

So with such a large herd to be milked they looked at investing in a rotary plant. It was an 18-month project, according to Peter. “A once in lifetime investment so we looked at parlours in Ireland –north and south along with Britain.”

Labour and long hours will no longer  be an issue as they  commissioned  a 50 point DeLaval external rotary (PR 2100) parlour early in  December  2012.  The whole building including calving facilities, drafting and holding pens is 220 x 104 feet and spans 11 bays.

The rotary parlour design is unique to DeLaval and includes a concrete floor with a surface hardener. Peter says that the cows are used to concrete, they are more comfortable on it and cows make less noise on it than a steel deck.

Eco-friendly systems
The Hygenius C200 auto plant washer uses 30 per cent less water and detergents to clean the parlour and equipment. As Peter said: “Just push a button and walk away –when you come back after a tea break the plant is spotless.” The Hygenius also has automatic dosing while the detergents and descaler used are pre-programmed.

In addition they have installed a massive 24,000 litres DeLaval DXCEM bulk tank with a heat recovery system. It can hold up to three days milking. This tank cools the milk quickly to the ideal temperature. This super sized tank can be washed in only 20 minutes using the eco friendly and cost effective Hygenius automated tank cleaning system.

The parlour equipment includes two variable speed pumps, three phase electricity and a backup diesel generator (50 KVA). These pumps use 40 per cent less energy and are much quieter than conventional pumps. They are totally oil free except for a small quantity used in the gearbox so there is no polluting of the environment. Direct -drives eliminate the worries associated with belt -driven pumps. Operation is more precise and tolerances are reduced, to give a smoother running with less oil consumption.

Peter and Margaret were impressed by the service available from Pat Moore their local DeLaval dealer. The Harmony heavy duty MC93 clusters are designed for a long and trouble free life. Peter says if the operator has to lift the cluster 600 times a day it is a great help if they are lightweight.

For further information on this case study of high-tech milking, cleaning, feeding and herd management systems please check out www.delaval.ie

Pictured: Margaret and Peter Keane pictured with two of their four children, Peter 11 and Grace 7,  beside their new 50 unit PR2100 DeLaval rotary parlour.

 Milking 3

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