Brian Horgan was a beef farmer with a love of dairy farming and a desire to establish his own herd, so in February 2020, that’s exactly what he did.

Brian made the switch to dairy farming on his farm outside the village of Enniskeane in Co. Cork. In the first year he milked 55 cows but this has now risen to 66 cows at the peak of this year.

His milking platform extends to 45ac and he operates an ABC grazing system. The herd’s calving pattern is split, with the majority calving in the spring between January and March, and around 25% calving in the autumn.

In the first year, the herd mainly consisted of heifers with some cows added as well. Brian supplied 493kg of milk solids to Bandon Co-op in the first year at 3.91% Fat and 3.50% protein with a cell count of 121,000.

Robotic milking
Brian Horgan

Grassland Management

To reduce costs Brian places a great emphasis on the importance of grassland management, and he aims to get cows into the optimum pre-grazing covers throughout the year of between 1,400-1,500kg dry matter (DM)/ha.

“Getting the grass right is key for my system here. I try to get as much quality grass into the cows as I can,” he said.

While considering his options of getting into dairy farming, it was a trip to the national ploughing championships in 2018 that opened Brian’s eyes to the possibility of installing a robotic milking operation.

It was a visit to the Lely stand and the opportunity to see for himself how an Automated Milking System (AMS) works that put him on the road to where he is today. Brian went to see existing Lely farms to see if it would work for him.

“It was when I went to see robots working on different farms that I really felt it would suit my farm here,” he said.

Come and join Brian Horgan at his Farm Open Day to see the Lely Astronaut in action, alongside the Discovery Collector slurry scraper and Lely Luna brush. Registration details are below.

Brian is also part of his family’s contracting business so flexibility was a key consideration for him. The flexibility provided by a Lely astronaut allows him to comfortably mange his dairy farm alongside his other off farm commitments.

“We have off farm commitments here contracting, so the flexibility the robot provides me is essential to manage these,” he said.

Brian feels the information the Astronaut gives him is key to make management decisions on a daily basis.

Some of the advantages he finds include:

  • Feed to yield: allowing for more efficient use of feed;
  • Health report: this allows for any sickness to be detected early allowing for more effective treatment;
  • More Milking’s: Brian’s cows average close to 2.5 milking’s/day across the lactation;
  • Activity Monitoring: Brian finds the heat detection very accurate;
  • Cell count and udder health monitoring: Brian plans to use Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT) this year. The provision of daily cell counts for each cow gives him greater confidence in identifying the cows suitable for teat sealer only.

“I use the information the robot provides me to make my decisions. I can see the cows cell count throughout her lactation and if she had any spike or a case of mastitis I know then that she’s not a candidate,” he added.

Robotic milking

Some goals of Brian’s for the future include growing cow numbers to 70 going forward and to maintain the herd at this level. As well as this, he aims to increase the percentage fat and protein in the herd to increase output further as the herd matures.

Robotic milking back-up service

When Brian made the decision to install, an AMS he felt a reliable back up service that he could call upon when needed was essential:

“Service and backup is essential with any machine as I know from contracting. Also this is a big change from what I was used to at home where they milked with a parlour,” he said.

Robotic milking

“This machine runs 24/7 and Lely Center Mitchelstown have great backup on the service side as well as a Farm management support team to help with the start-up and transition period as well as ongoing support when I need it.”

See the Lely Astronaut in action

Please join Lely Center Mitchelstown for an open day on Brian Hogan’s farm on November 26, from 11:00a.m – 3:00p.m.

For anyone with an interest in robotic milking this is a great opportunity to come and see a top class farm in operation.