Lely Centre Mullingar recently hosted a farm walk in Co. Monaghan, on the farm of Kevin McCluskey, just outside Shercock.

The farm lies just on the border between Monaghan and Cavan. It was originally a beef enterprise, but the farm is now in its fourth milk-production season.

When the farm changed to dairy, an existing suckler shed was converted to house a Lely robot, with space left for a second, and cubicles were added too.

About 80% of the farm’s herd calves in the spring, with the remaining 20% calving in the autumn.

Speaking to Agriland, Kevin said that he converted to dairying to make the best use of the land.

A lack of experience with dairying and a centrally located yard were the main reasons behind the decision to go with a Lely robot.

Although space has been left with for a second robot, there are no plans currently in place for one to be installed.

The focus on the farm is to increase production from within the herd, with Kevin hoping that the 72 cows being milked on the farm will achieve an average of 500kg of milk solids this year.


Farmers attending the walk heard first from William Conlon and John Breslin, who discussed how robots can be installed in existing buildings, like what happened on Kevin’s farm, or in newly built sheds.

Conlon explained to the crowd in attendance that the company has two basic designs for installing robots on farms.

William Conlon and John Breslin from Lely
William Conlon and John Breslin

He said that his main job is to agree a concept plan with a farmer and once this is agreed, it is handed over to a project coordinator.

Conlon and Breslin are responsible for working with farmers until the robots are fitted, with Conlon adding that from the first time you meet him, it could be eight to 10 months before the robot is fixed.

Shed layout and herd size influence the design that is used on farms, which could be a head-to-head system or a checkout design.

On Kevin’s farm, a head-to-head design was chosen.

Lely robots
Example of a checkout system

Conlon then outlined some building costs for greenfield sites, using an example of a shed with 100 cubicles and one robot installed, with space for a second.

Constructing the shed cost €100,000 plus VAT, then concrete work including slatted tanks was €90,000 plus VAT, bringing the total build cost to €190,000 plus VAT.

Feed barriers and mats were an additional €20,000 plus VAT, bringing the overall total to €210,000 plus VAT – with plumbing and electric on top of that.

Conlon told attending farmers that Lely robots are covered under Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS), but only on farms that have a maximum of 120 cows – unless there is a young farmer which increases the maximum number of cows to 160.

He also noted a requirement of the new TAMS is that you must have 10% extra slurry storage than you require based on cow numbers on your farm.

This cannot be leased in storage, so on some farms, to be TAMS eligible for milking equipment, a new tank may need to be built.


Grass plays a vital role on the majority of Irish dairy farms, so ensuring that cows have access to grass is important for most farmers.

The farmers at the farm walk also heard from Sean Callan, about how the Lely robot works in a grazing system.

Kevin operates an ABC grazing system. The A and B sections of the farm are set up to be about the same size, while the C is set up slightly smaller.

The cows have access to the paddocks through a gate that is linked to their collars and sends them to paddocks depending on the time.

Sean Callan from Lely

Callan said that many farmers think that meal, or wanting to be milked, entices cows back to the robot, but really it the access to fresh grass.

Originally, an A and B grazing system was sold by Lely, but due cows spending too long in paddocks and all coming to the robot at a similar time, a ‘C’ was added.

In an ABC grazing system the farmer will have to move three fences/day, with two changes required in the morning on Kevin’s farm and one in the evening.

The grazeway system

Callan said that some flexibility in the grazing set up is required, and recommends making changes based on the cows.

If too many cows are still in the paddock and haven’t moved on they likely have been given too much and should be given a small break for the next grazing in the paddock.

Lely robots

The crowd in attendance also heard about the specifications that come with the robot.

On average, it takes about 10 minutes to milk each cow and is continuously offering information.

The robot on Kevin’s farm monitors milk to identify early cases of mastitis. The system milks each teat individually.

It was highlighted to the farmers in attendance that although the robot gives information, it is up to the farmers to act on it.

Farm walk

The farmers in attendance also heard from members of the AIB agri team on loan options when installing or switching to robotic milking – along with making other investments on farms.

Heat detection and health-monitoring collars were also discussed at the walk, with both systems being compatible with the Lely robot.

Farmers could also speak with one of the companies offering solar panels to farmers.

They can be particularly beneficial to farmers in a robotic system as power is required throughout the day, rather than a two times during the day in conventional parlour.