Jerome O’Connor is farming in partnership with his parents, James and Nuala in Ardagh, Co. Limerick.

In 2021 the O’Connor’s milked 95 cows and are expanding 120 cows in 2022. At present, numbers are up to 113.

Previously, the Co. Limerick farm milked 70 cows through a six-unit herringbone parlour. When quotas were abolished in 2015, the O’Connor’s had the opportunity to expand and increase cow numbers. Existing facilities were sufficient for 70 cows.

However, in order to expand beyond this a decision was needed. After looking at all their options, the O’Connor’s decided to pursue robotic milking and in March 2021 began milking with two Lely A5 robots supplied and fitted by Lely Center Mitchelstown.

The Limerick family

“In 2020, we sat down and assessed our options and looked at what we could do in order to increase cow numbers further, in order to have an income for all three of us involved and to streamline the business that would make our lives easier – and also free up more time for ourselves,” explained Jerome.

Jerome knew what he wanted in his head and with the help of Lely Center Mitchelstown, he was able to put this down on paper and have a plan to work towards.

When it came to deciding on robots Jerome and his parents decided to go with two Lely Astronaut A5’s, supplied by Lely Center Mitchelstown.

The main factor driving the decision to go with robots was labour.

“The availability of labour is becoming more challenging and we wanted to limit our exposure to this, in addition we gain from all the associated management benefits that come with robotic milking,” said Jerome.

“We felt robots offer more flexibility and are less labour intensive compared to a parlour.”

The Lely Astronaut system provides farmers with a lot of useful individual and herd information in real time e.g. protein, butterfat and cell count measurement.

“The features of the robot have made managing cows much easier for us,” the young farmer added.

“The information you get about each individual cow is great and the robots pick up if a cow isn’t herself, for example like not eating or if a cow has a temperature, quicker than we would if we were milking in a parlour.”

Jerome also opted for integrated heat detection and drafting as an extra to his system.

“Heat detection is a feature we find great. When you come out in the morning, the robots will have cows in-heat drafted out to the separation area which saves a lot of time and labour for us,” Jerome added.

How the herd performs

The milking platform consists of 100ac of land accessible to the cows around the yard. In 2021, the herd produced 450kg of milk solids with 40% of the herd in their first lactation.

This was at 4.08% fat and 3.43 % protein. Somatic cell count for the year averaged 181. The O’Connor’s run an ABC grazing system, where the herd are offered three allocations of grass at set times throughout the day.

“I was very happy with the way the cows made the switch from the parlour to the Lely robots,” said Jerome.

“The whole herd was up and going in six weeks and the advice and backup from day one was excellent; it was the part I was most anxious about and I’m happy it went very smoothly.”

Grassland management

Being spring-calving and grass-based, Jerome places a big emphasis on the importance of grassland management. Operating an ABC system on his farm, Jerome places strict focus on allocating the correct quality and quantity of grass in each allocation. The aim is to get into covers at between 1200-1300kg dry matter (DM)/ha.

“It’s very important to keep quality right,” added the Co. Limerick farmer.

“When operating ABC you need to get the allocations right to optimize movement of the cows. Once you get used to allocations, it is no big deal.

“The support and back up from the Lely Center Mitchelstown has been excellent,” Jerome added.

“They have a team of engineers and Farm Management Support advisors who are always at the end of the phone to answer any questions or queries.”

Lely Center Mitchelstown is hosting an Open Day on Jerome’s farm in Ardagh, Co. Limerick, V42 TX94 on Thursday, May 5, from 10:30a.m – 2:00p.m.

For more information on any of the Lely products contact Brian O’ Riordan on: 087 936 7774.