This week’s Buildings Focus saw Agriland head to Cappeen in Co. Cork to speak to father-and-son team Pat and Michael John O’Driscoll about their new 16-unit parlour.

The duo moved into their new milking facilities this spring, which saw them leave their original 10-unit parlour which had been in use since 1962.

Increasing cow numbers which saw 11 rows of cows going through the parlour in recent years was the main driver for the O’Driscolls to look at putting in a new milking parlour.

Speaking to Agriland inside the new milking parlour, Pat said: “We had come to a stage where we had outgrown the old parlour.

“It didn’t owe us anything. We had 11 rows of cows going through it up to last year but milking time was catching up on us.

“We were near one hour and a half to an an hour and three quarters milking and we just had to look at cutting that back.

“So to speed up milking, to make the yard work more efficiently and to tidy it up were the main reasons for the move to putting in a new milking parlour.”

L:R: Pat and Michael John O’Driscoll

Tying in existing sheds to the new parlour

Finding a location to put a new milking parlour was the first job. Many a discussion was had to see where the new parlour would fit in best in the yard.

Pat and Michael John wanted the parlour to be situated in a place where it would tie in with the rest of the yard, particularly the two cubicle sheds at the rear of the yard.

So to achieve this, the option of knocking the old parlour and putting the new one in its place wasn’t going to work out, so instead, the O’Driscolls knocked the old calf shed and built the new parlour in its place.

The idea of having the parlour where it is today is that when cows come in from the grazing platform they can walk into the collecting yard or in through the front of the nearest cubicle shed to the grazing platform – which both join up as one as the collecting yard.

Whichever way cows come in, either into the main collecting yard which leads into the parlour or into the cubicle shed, they have access to a concrete trough where the O’Driscolls buffer feed their cows.

Pat said it’s a great job in that as the cows come in, they can walk over to trough and feed away themselves before milking and means they are content while cows are going through the parlour at milking time.

The fact that the front part of the cubicle shed doubles up as part of the collecting yard means that cows have access to feed from the trough from two sides, meaning 60 cows can feed from it at the one time.

The collecting yard from the trough to the entrance of the parlour is grooved, with a step for cows to climb to enter into the parlour.

Once cows finish milking, they leave the parlour and head down the exit race which leads them into the other cubicle shed, which means the milked cows and the cows yet to go into the parlour are kept separated.

Once all the cows can fit into the the front part of the collecting yard, the gates leading into the cubicle shed where they can feed out of the trough from are closed behind them. This allows for the cows that have been milked in the other shed to walk through the front of the other cubicle shed back out to grass again.

The 16-unit milking parlour

Pat’s father Michael John has been milking since the early 1960s and since then he has been using a Boumatic Gasgoigne Melotte machine to milk cows on the farm and so has Pat since he started milking cows.

Therefore, the decision to go with a Boumatic Gasgoigne Melotte milking parlour again was an easy decision according to Pat, with a good backup service in the area another key reason for sticking with what they have tried and tested.

The O’Driscolls went with a 16-unit herringbone swing-over parlour, sourced from Howard Deane with the help of Paul Kingston, that is equipped with automatic cluster removers (ACRs), auto-wash system, cluster flush system and a dumpline.

A Cashman electronic feeding system was installed along with a Tombstone Head-Holders bailing system. The O’Driscolls opted to stick with 2ft 3 centres which Pat said worked well in the old parlour.

Speaking about the parlour, Pat said: “In the old milking parlour we had been upgrading over the years and had ACRs and a cluster flush system in the old parlour and we found them a great job so we put them in again.

“In terms of the machine itself, the big difference is that we put in a dumpline and it is a blessing to have, especially when we had fresh cows coming into the parlour after calving.

“The time it saved rather than lugging a big bucket around the parlour, not only saved time but hardship as well.

“The swing-over arms are mighty as well in that it frees up the middle of the pit and gives you that bit more breathing space.

“In the old parlour we had 2ft 3 centres and we went with the same again. Cows line up nicely in the pit and we find it works well for us.

“The tombstone bailing system is probably one of the standout features of the parlour for us.

“In the old parlour we had high troughs but the cows used to be able to turn their heads and eat meal out of cow’s trough behind them.

“That problem exist no more with this system as cows can only access their own trough.

“It gives you great control of the cows and the cows are very relaxed in the parlour it must be said too.

“The air-star system we put in is also more energy efficient which will help to keep the electrical bill down. It’s also very quiet in here at milking time because of it.

“We put in guillotine gates at either end of the parlour [at entry and exit points]. Moreover, the concrete floor at the back of the parlour and at the front of the parlour leading towards the exit race is grooved to avoid cows from slipping.

“It’s a fine airy and bright shed and credit goes to my brother Joe who designed the shed, it’s a lovely environment to milk in. Even the work outside the shed such as the overhang over the crush at the side of the parlour, was well thought out and finished well.”

A 12t meal bin serves the parlour while an 8,000L bulk tank holds the milk from the 107 cows.

‘Credit to all involved’

Pat said the new milking facilities on the farm today is a credit to everyone involved in the build.

Pat, who is the youngest of a family of seven, said that a large chunk of the work carried out was completed by family.

His brother Joe, as mentioned designed the shed and was the main contractor involved in the build and looked after it from start to finish. Kevin Buttimer carried out the groundwork, getting the site ready.

Mike O’Donoghue did the tank and walls of the shed. Tony O’Driscoll erected the shed. Clinton Mahony carried out the electrical work, with Michael White doing the plumbing work. While Brian, Micheal and Diarmuid O’Driscoll and Martin McCarthy also carried out work in the new parlour.

Pat also gave a special mention to his wife, kids and wider family for the support they gave him to take on this “big undertaking” as well as the Upper Lee Valley discussion group.

‘Shaving 40 minutes off milking’

Speaking about the decision to go ahead and put in the new parlour, Pat said: “Overall, I’m very happy with how it turned out.

“If I was to go back and do it again, I don’t think there would be many changes I’d make.

“We have shaved a good 40 minutes off our milking time and the way the yard is laid out, having slats at the back of the parlour, we have very little washing to do after milking and what bit we have to do doesn’t take long.

“Cows took to the parlour straight away without having to be trained in. Cow flow is excellent and the fact that the parlour ties the rest of the yard together, means we achieved all our goals that we had set out.

“It’s hard to believe what has been achieved in less than a year, we only started in June of last year.

“Since start-up in early spring, it has been a joy milking in the parlour and again, thanks to everyone who contributed and helped out in making what we have here today.”