FARM SMART: Automation and technology top of the agenda on Co. Tipperary dairy farm

Farming in Holycross, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, Timmy Dwyer milks a herd of 120 spring-calving cows. The farm is home to 123ac and an additional 35ac are leased.

While 120 cows bring a heavy workload with them, Timmy has help and takes every Sunday off to unwind and a relief milker comes in during the milking season.

Additionally, the Tipperary-based farmer hires help during the busy spring when cows are calving. After that, Timmy is the only labour unit on the farm.

Therefore, to reduce the workload and make his life easier, he turned his attention to automation and technology; something that Timmy believes has benefited his farm and his system.

Last year, automatic calf feeders were installed on the farm.

On this, he said: “We installed automatic calf feeders last year which have helped us out greatly. It has saved us a couple of hours everyday feeding the calves; it was a big help and I thought the calves even did better.

“It saved me an hour morning and evening and I was finished up that little bit earlier. The calves were also that little bit easier managed.”

In addition to the calf feeders, a drafting system was also installed adjacent to the milking parlour. This – Timmy says – has helped greatly in the springtime when it comes to AI.

“It also works very well if I have a lame cow. I don’t have to go out into a big herd of cows and try and pick them out; it works very well,” the Tipperary man explained.

Moreover, a feed-to-yield system is currently being installed in the milking parlour before the first cow is due to calve on January 10.

Having previously operated an automatic feeding option, the feed-to-yield system will allow Timmy to look after the individual cow better. To finalise the improvements, a new meal bin will be installed before calving and milking commences.

While automation is top of the agenda on the farm, so too is technology. After first hearing about Herdwatch five years ago, Timmy is now a long-term user.

Some of the practices which Timmy uses the app for include calf registration and animal movements. As Timmy has to deal with a lot of calves – sometimes on his own – he outlined that the scanning method is a major time saver.

“I go out and tag the calf and then register all my calves as I go along. You have no messing up with breeds or male or female; everything comes back properly on the card.

“It’s so easy to use; you don’t feel intimidated working it because it’s very user friendly,” he added.

Timmy also highlighted that Herdwatch is very useful when it comes to scan dates and that it is linked very well with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF).

Another service which Timmy finds extremely helpful is when it comes to recording remedies for Bord Bia inspections.

“Everything is recorded. I make sure and record the same day as when I’m doing it because it’s hard to go back and do it later. It’s on your phone and it is easy enough to follow once you have it in your hand.

“If you vaccinate cattle or inject or dose a cow, you bring out your phone there and then and it’s recorded. Before, I’d walk off and say I must do that tomorrow but I might forget it.”

Timmy highlighted that Herdwatch is very user friendly and that the team are very helpful.

“It is very easy to use and the app will prompt you along the whole time and – if you make a mistake – it’s easy to go back.”

Timmy also plans to use it from a breeding perspective this year. He will use it to track what cows were served and when; and he can also track repeats.

Notifications on ‘watchboard’ will allow him to generate a calving report in the springtime, so he can see the list of cows that are calving and when.

The Tipperary dairy farmer is a firm believer in change and has adapted to new technology when it comes to the day-to-day running of his farm.

“Every year we will try and improve on something just to make life a little bit easier and automation and technology seem to be the way to go.”