Why this Galway farmer chose a rotary over a herringbone parlour

It’s been five years since the Irish Grassland Association (IGA) Dairy Summer Tour was held on the farm of Henry Walsh in Oranmore, Co. Galway.

Since then, the herd has increased through the leasing of land close to the milking platform, and also by focusing on growing more grass.

In 2015, there was a 16-unit herringbone parlour, which Henry says was more than adequate throughout the early years; however, it came under incredible pressure as time went on.

Upon his son Enda finishing his degree in Dairy Business in University College Dublin (UCD), the decision was made to update the infrastructure on the farm – in particular the milking and housing facilities.

Now, approximately 320 cows are milked on the holding operating at a stocking rate on the milking platform of 4LU/ha.

“We import all of our winter feed from outside the milking platform from leased land and also round bales that we feed the cows during lactation,” he said during the 2020 Dairy Summer Tour live discussion.

“The real debate we have now is whether or not to put in a second unit in order to manage time and family life.

“To date, we have made the decision to stick with the primary milking platform that we have and not step out to a second unit.

“That would spread out our limited labour resources and place too much of a burden on the labour that we have available,” he explained.

Rotary vs. herringbone parlour?

The Walsh’s opted to install a 50-unit rotary parlour and the project was finished in February 2019. Commenting the decision, he said:

“It definitely took a little bit of time to decide on which to go with it; we are milking 300 cows.

“I would say unless you are incredibly well-resourced financially, 300 cows is the absolute minimum that you should consider putting in a rotary at.

“We agonised over a long period of time whether to put one in and we eventually decided on a 50-unit.”

While the decision wasn’t taking lightly, Henry said it has completely transformed the working environment on our farm.

“The physical demands of milking that many cows through a herringbone parlour were unsustainable.

“We are at the start of a transition where we are stepping from one generation to the next. At this point, we felt we were putting in a facility that would hopefully function for a minimum of 25-30 years – as in a generation of farming.

“It’s not something I would have considered for myself at my age only for Enda had made a decision to join us on the farm,” he added.

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