Co. Kilkenny dairy farmer Sean Meehan is currently milking 87 cows on a grass-based, spring-calving system. He plans to extend his herd to around 120 cows in the coming years.

Sean is a re-entrant to dairy farming and is keen to take advice from experts and adopt new technologies now and going forward in the future.

Five years ago, Sean began researching automated milking systems as he wanted to return to dairying. He was also mindful that his sons were showing an interest in farming and he wanted to have a farm to pass on to them in the future.

Robotic milking

After extensive research, Sean decided to install a GEA DairyRobot R9500 on his farm.

Discussing why he chose GEA’s system, Sean said: “What impressed me about the GEA DairyRobot R9500 was the speed of attachment, quarter separation and the fact that you were able to attach it manually onto a heifer.”

Sean also really liked the design and layout of GEA’s system, and mentioned that the spacious pit behind the robot provides access to assess cows that are underperforming to see whether they have mastitis or not.

“Then you can treat them in the box in the environment that they are used to being in. Everything is done there including light preparation, washing and dipping,” he said.

Sean decided to have a small shed constructed to house his robot and machine room, which connects to an existing existing slatted shed on his farm.

Combined with the automated drafting gate, this extra space allows Sean to separate cows from the herd easily, if necessary.

Sean said: “Well, I found the separation area very, very handy, and very convenient for cows freshly calved, and heifers and so on.

“You can train them over a period of a couple of days from the separation area and if you want to isolate a cow for one reason or the next, you can separate her into the separation area and she’s here with waiting on you to examine.”

Sean found that some of his cows took to the robotic system easily, while others took a little longer to train.

Talking about his cow’s adoption of the system, Sean said: “To train the cows on the robot varied over a period.

“Some went in the first day, easily on their own out of curiosity and were milked, and some took three or four days.

“I had a few cows that took much longer. I had them separated in a paddock outside, and eventually I just let them out to the main herd to see if they would sink or swim, and they all swam.

“The cows got accustomed to grazing and coming to the robot at certain times for a period of a couple of days,” he said.

FarmView app

Sean has 24-hour access to his robotic system through GEA’s FarmView app on his phone. The app also allows Sean to monitor his herd at all times, allowing him to check on his herd even when he is away from the farm.

“The FarmView app is very handy. You can access it at all times once you have internet connection,” he said.

“It’s very handy if you wake up in the night for one reason or another, you can make sure everything is working okay,” the farmer continued.

“You can check whether there’s cows being milked or cows waiting to be milked on the phone.”

Customer service

It was extremely important to Sean that the company he decided to purchase his robot off provided him with extensive support and help, especially in the beginning.

GEA provided Sean with this support from before installation, right until now. Sean discussed his experience with GEA’s FTS Dairy Service’s team, he said: “At start up and during the installation, FTS were out here practically every day.

“At start-up they were here to help me, and plus, I can access them on the phone at any stage or if I have any problem they’ll talk me through it or come our and sort it out.”

Sean confirmed that installing a robotic milking system was the right decision as in his opinion, an automatic robotic system is simpler and more flexible than a operating a milking parlour.

He said: “Anyone considering automatic milking, from milking in a parlour in a previous life, there’s a complete difference and a more relaxed way of life.

“You do things at your own pace and when it’s convenient for you. I suppose, my advice is, go GEA.”

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