‘We felt we would only get a few years out of a second-hand parlour, so we put in a robot’

Last week, Lely Center Mullingar held a virtual farm walk on the farm of Jack and Bill Madigan from Co. Kilkenny.

The duo installed a Lely Astronaut A5 back in 2019 for its herd of 70 Fleckvieh and Friesian cows.

The father and son duo were involved in veal and miscanthus production before switching over to dairy in 2019. Speaking on the night, Jack said that they had two options when it came to how they would go about milking cows. He said it was either a second parlour or a “modern” robotic milking machine.

In the end, they decided on a robot. Here’s what Jack had to say about their decision to go down the robotic-milking route: “The reason why we felt a robot was a good option for us was that it was like having a relief milker on the farm, 24 hours a day – and an experienced one at that.

“The information you get from it is great and because we didn’t have a huge amount of experience with milking cows and dairy in general, we thought it would be a huge asset to us [having a robotic milking machine].

When we first thought about going down the milking route we had two options: either go with the most advanced modern system which was a robot; or put in a second-hand parlour and get into it the cheapest possible way.

“But I suppose we felt with putting in an old parlour you would only get a few years out of it and then you would have to upgrade and there would be quite a considerable cost involved with that.

“So, we felt going with a modern robotic system, even though we knew it would be expensive to buy, the building work involved around it would be cheaper – which it was – so we felt it would work for us and the farm we have here. We had an existing housing facility, so we just had to build a small lean-to off it for the robot and slatted tank.

“The costs, outside of the robot, such as: the tank; the meal bin; the bulk tank; the compressor area; and the office was roughly €60,000. There wasn’t a huge amount of concrete needed and we were able to do a lot of the work ourselves along with helping the builders who did come in.

“We are very happy with our decision to go down the robotic route. People said to us your phone will ring a couple of times at night saying that there is a problem or something but we have had no issues whatsoever. It’s been a very smooth transition for us and we have plans to put in a second robot in the near future, if not more.”

Fleckvieh and Friesian cows on the Madigans farm in Co. Kilkenny