Largest Lely robotic milking and grazing farm in Europe opens its gates

Pat Farrelly is milking 275 spring calving Kiwi Friesian and Jersey cross cows outside Kells in Co. Meath with four Lely Robots and two labour units since 2010.

Cows are let out to grass in early February and graze until mid-November, weather permitting.

Proteins are currently running at 4.07%, fats at 5.06% at a milk price of 31c per litre. Herd average is 5,400L per cow with TBC’s of 5,000 & SCC’s averaging 105,000.

Labour saving, more time and flexibility

“We returned to farming in 2008 after working away in Dublin for many years.

“When we decided to get back into milk, with alternative jobs and off farm commitments Lely was the only choice for us as it reduces the labour requirement, gives us full control over our cows and forces us to manage and grow grass better.

We’re milking 275 cows here on approximately 1.5 labour units with all work apart from grass maintenance and winter feeding is contracted out.

“At calving, we get in a little help, otherwise staff is limited and we don’t have the added headache of managing too many people.

“Installing a Lely Astronaut is a change of lifestyle; as well as having more spare time; the great thing is the flexibility in the evenings as we are not tied to milking cows.

“This is very important as I have a very young family. The working day consists of starting in the yard at 7.30am and carrying out the routine daily robot tasks (cleaning the laser, changing milk filter sock and checking the attention list for sick, lame or cows in heat).

“This gives us plenty of time for the other daily jobs of moving fences etc. while getting off farm to do other things.” notes Pat.

Grazing with the Lely Astronaut – ABC

“Our cows are averaging 15L/day on 0.5kg of meal and with such low concentrate levels fed; it’s the prospect of fresh grass that lures the cows to the robot.

“Grazing with the Lely Astronaut has inadvertently made us better grassland managers.

We are operating an ABC grazing system and we spend time growing, measuring and allocating 1300-1500 covers.

“It takes a bit of planning but works perfectly once you budget grass appropriately. Our cows are travelling up to 1.9 km freely.” adds Pat.

Better information and healthier cows

“The information generated is excellent; as we have a large herd and a limited amount of time available to look after cows, this data is critical in helping me make the correct daily management decisions.

“For us, robotic milking is like managing large amounts of cows on an individual basis rather than as a herd.

“Contentment and temperament is very noticeable and cows are less stressed and easy to handle.

Health issues are flagged usually 24-48 hours in advance which allows us react before they become a problem.

“We really don’t have any major health issues here; we don’t vaccinate and have little or no mastitis.” concludes Pat.

Investment

A Lely Astronaut A4 installed on a grass based system can be installed from €40 per day on Lely Finance.

All Lely Center’s have trained yard planners and project co-ordinators and offer free farm appraisals to evaluate if the system will suit your farm.

There is also an option of a grant through the TAMS scheme of €32,000 to €80,000 per project.

Open day invitation

Pat Farrelly along with Lely Center Mullingar are inviting farmers to come see his 4 x Lely Astronaut A4 automatic milking systems in Balnagnon Upper, Carnaross, Kells, Co. Meath from 12 – 4pm on October 6.

The farm will be sign posted from R163 Kells – Oldcastle Rd.

For further details please contact: Niall McGauran on 086 4178424.

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