Saving time and bringing back the joy of milking with the help of a new rotary parlour
Ever since milk quotas were abolished in 2015, many dairy farms across the country have expanded in some way, shape, or form.
In some cases, the expansion has either been gradual or rapid. One family who gradually expanded, over a five-year period, is the Walshs from Ballyagran in Co. Limerick.
Up until 2015, Michael and his son, Michael, were milking an 80-cow herd, which predominately consisted of British-cross Holstein Friesian cows.
A number of factors led to the decision to install a new rotary parlour on the Walshs’ farm.
The task of milking in the old 14-unit herringbone parlour was becoming a physically and mentally draining task for the father-and-son team and their full-time worker Joseph.
The original idea was to install another herringbone parlour, but after taking into consideration a number of factors such as the number of cows that they were milking and also the relatively small difference in costs between the two different types of parlours, the Walshs decided on a 40-unit DeLaval E100 rotary parlour.
“When we decided to upgrade the parlour we looked at all the brands on the market. The DeLaval rotary was our favourite and a key factor for us was that the DeLaval dealer Alan Sexton was only 5 miles away,” commented Michael.
Bringing back the joy of milking
The expansion of the herd year-on-year has seen Michael and his son go from milking 80 cows up to 250 cows.
The duo’s working day, up until last year, was starting at 4:30am, which involved one person going for the cows, while the other person got set up in the parlour.
Due to the sheer number of cows and the fact that the milk truck would land at the yard at 8:00am, the father-and-son team had to have the cows milked by then.
It was taking up to three hours to milk the cows, so something had to change, according to Michael, in order to bring the joy back to the job.
Michael said that if he was to go and bring in the cows when they were in the old parlour, the person who would have been milking would be lucky to have been on the second row of cows.
Whereas now, in the new rotary parlour, by the time whoever is bringing the cows in, the guy in the parlour has up to 50 cows milked in the space of 25-30 minutes.
In essence, the rotary parlour has not only cut down the time spent milking the cows but it has also made the task enjoyable once again.
“The new parlour is much nicer to milk in; we are more relaxed and so are the cows,” stated Michael.
The old milking parlour on the Walshs’ farm was very basic, which also slowed down the process of milking the cows.
The new 40-unit DeLaval E100 rotary parlour contains a number of features, such as: automatic cluster removers (ACR’s); auto-teat-spray pods; an auto-wash system; and feed-to-yield feeders and the new DeLaval Evanza milking cluster that uses a quick change cartridge instead of a liner.
Moreover, at the milking station, an information system was installed just behind where the milking operator stands, which is called the DeLaval Cockpit. This gives the Walshs the ability to run the entire shed all within one arm’s length of where you stand at “cups-on” and, most importantly, this allows the Walshs to check on an individual cow’s performance to see what she is producing.
In the old parlour, the Walshs, for example, didn’t have ACR’s or an auto-wash system, which they say they wouldn’t be able to live without now.
The flow of cows into and out of the parlour is rapid in comparison to the old parlour and, because of that, the cows don’t have to stand around in the collecting yard before and after milking as long as they would have had to in the past.
The massive advantage of the new rotary parlour is the DeLaval DelPro herd management system, as they have increased cow numbers in such a short time; with DelPro they can manage and review each cow individually. This works in tandem with the feed-to-yield system, which, according to Michael, has saved them a lot of money.
He said: “The best part about the new parlour is the feed-to-yield system. In the past, cows would have been fed the same amount of concentrates day-in day-out.
Whereas now, the cows that are producing the goods are being rewarded, while the cows that are just ticking along are getting what they require to keep them going.
“The information that we get on the computer from DelPro about each individual cow’s performance is unbelievable. I can see what cows are producing the goods because, in the past, the cows that I thought were performing well were actually not and the ones that I thought weren’t producing the goods in actual fact were.
“It’s unreal the information that we can get and because of that information, we can make better management decisions than what we would have been able to do in the past.”
A DeLaval drafting system was also installed, which, according to Michael, has made life so much easier at breeding time, when cows are coming in heat.
Moving with the times
The Walshs realised that going up in cow numbers meant that they couldn’t continue milking in their old parlour if they wanted to run an efficient and profitable system.
Michael added: “The fact that only one person is needed now to milk the cows in comparison to two in the past is a huge bonus.
“That second person that we needed in the parlour last year can now go off and do other jobs around the farm. In essence, we have more time to do jobs than before because of the new rotary parlour.
“We used to have two people in the old, dark parlour milking the cows for up to three hours. It was extremely tough going.
The new parlour is a delight to work in. It’s a bright and comfortable environment to work in. The cows seem to be very happy in it.
“We had to move with the times and upgrade our milking facilities and I can safely say we are very happy with our decision to go with a rotary parlour.
“It is only taking us an hour and a half in the morning to milk the cows and about 10 minutes less in the evening.
“The wash up afterwards milking is now much quicker than before. If I was to sum up the new rotary parlour in a couple of words I would say it has brought enjoyment back into our life as well as increasing the efficiency of how we do things from once the cows enter the collecting yard.”