New dairy entrant Michael Fagan is hosting an open day, to show farmers the automated milking machine he installed last year.

Having milked cows on the home farm years ago with his brother, Michael left dairy production and went working full time, before he returned to farming part-time, keeping cattle and sheep.

“I got into cattle and sheep to suit my work and very quickly realised I was a busy fool as there was plenty of work with very little reward.

“I always knew our farm was dry and good enough to make a better return, so I investigated the possibility of getting back into milking again.

At the age of 55, I realised there were very few options for me to suit my full-time job and family. My brother Eamon advised me to look into automatic milking and after some research, I purchased the Lely Astronaut A4 last year and started milking in March 2014,” says Michael.

Michael, who is farming part time, is milking 55 Friesian X cows outside Glasson, Athlone, Co. Westmeath.

He is operating a spring-calving system on a grazing platform of 100 acres in one block. Cows are let out to grass from late February until November and herd average is 5,500L per cow with 3.40% protein and 3.90% fat. TBCs are 5,000 and SCCs are running at 80,000 cells per ml.

Grazing with the robot
“Initially, I had some apprehensions regarding grazing but the robot works perfectly with grass. It just needs proper planning, cows travel well once you budget grass appropriately.

“It’s about getting the right balance – allow too much grass and cows are slow to move, give too little and they move too fast. I’m operating an A & B grazing system which ensures the cows are offered fresh grass every 12 hours.”

With cows averaging 25L per day on 2kg of concentrate with 2.1 milking’s per cow at the moment, they and cows are very happy and content,” he says.

More time and flexibility
As well as having more spare time, he says the family have far more flexibility and that’s the biggest advantage of automatic milking.

“I have two young sons at home; Kevin and Simon and we get to go to plenty of GAA matches. The boys looked after the farm when Brid and I were on holidays last summer – the Astronaut A4 is very easy to operate and manage.

To be fair while it took the cow’s very little time to adapt – it took me a little longer to trust the system. However, I’m 100% convinced now that this was the only decision for my farm!

All Lely Astronauts are specified with tools to monitor health, welfare and productivity of the dairy herd. Automatic heat detection, rumination, weighing, feed to yield, daily milk protein and fat indication and automatic cow drafting are common features.

“The information generated by the T4C (time for cows) management programme is very powerful and allows us to react where necessary.”

After Sales Service
Michael says that before purchasing the robot, he was concerned about service and support but the local Lely Center have delivered on that too.

“They have been a great support before, during and after the installation and ensured the transition ran as smooth as possible. They are always at the end of the phone.” concludes Michael.

Open Day – Tuesday, May 19 

Michael Fagan along with Lely Center Mullingar are inviting farmers to come and see the Lely Astronaut A4 at Michael’s farm in Glasson, Athlone, Co. Westmeath from 12 – 8pm.

The farm will be signposted from the Athlone – Longford road. If you require any more information please contact Niall McGauran 086 4178424.