Have you ever thought about robotic milking on your farm?

Marcus Grey with the Herd Navigator equipment installed on his 210 cow pedigree Jersey herd farm.
Marcus Grey with the Herd Navigator equipment installed on his 210 cow pedigree Jersey herd farm.

Located approximately seven miles north of Enniskillen in Killadeas is Oghill Farm. From the outside, it has all the appearance of an ordinary farm but once inside the gate, one realises quickly that this bustling farm has embraced agri-technology whole-heartedly and is run much differently to an old-style traditional model.

Marcus Grey with some of the DeLaval VMS milking robots which are improving efficiency on his farm at Killadeas.

Marcus Grey with some of the DeLaval VMS milking robots which are improving efficiency on his farm at Killadeas.

The core values and attention to detail remain a constant however. The Grey family have run Oghill Farm since 1798. In October of 2014, they decided to invest in a DeLaval Voluntary Milking System (VMS). This means their herd of 210 Jersey cows can choose when they want to be milked, fed and also enjoy a robotic massage and brushing as part of a new state-of-the-art system which is revolutionising dairy farming.

On Thursday, April 28, Marcus Grey along with local DeLaval dealer, Albert Jones, will host an open day at Oghill farm from 10am to 3pm. Visitors will have an opportunity to see first-hand, Herd Navigator™, the tool of the future for dairy farmers.

“We are the only farm in Europe with the two systems - Feed First and Free Cow Traffic - in operation,” said farmer, Marcus Grey.

In December of last year after considerable research, Marcus decided it was time to take the next step becoming the first farmer anywhere in Ulster, or indeed in Ireland, to install Herd Navigator™.

Marcus Grey examining details of his dairy herd on the DeLaval Herd Navigator programme installed on his farm at Killadeas, Co. Fermanagh. Marcus is the first in Ireland to install the revolutionary system.

Marcus Grey examining details of his dairy herd on the DeLaval Herd Navigator programme installed on his farm at Killadeas, Co. Fermanagh. Marcus is the first in Ireland to install the revolutionary system.

“Herd Navigator™ is the tool of the future for farmers,” stated Marcus. “We have invested in DeLaval robotic milking which has greatly reduced the time it takes to milk our herd, now we have a tool which can tell us all we need to know about each individual cow every day. This brings control and management of our stock to a whole new level and we are extremely impressed by what it can do.”

Herd Navigator™’ is designed to provide producers with an enhanced overview of their entire herd whilst offering specific valuable information on individual cows. It will allow milk producers here to obtain over 95% heat detection though analysis of the progesterone level in milk as well as measuring an enzyme, LDH (Lactate-dehydrogenase), to identify infections before clinical mastitis is visible. Milk producers will also be made aware of cows affected by metabolic disorders such as ketosis before actual symptoms are visible to the naked eye.

At Oghill farm, since the installation of Herd Navigator the heat detection rate has tripled and more of the cows that are presented for insemination are becoming pregnant too according to Marcus. Conception rates increase because Herd Navigator also provides information to help determine the best time to inseminate a cow, this can vary from herd to herd.

£210 yield increase per cow

The Grey family pictured on their farm at Killadeas which is home to the first Herd Navigator" on the island.

The Grey family pictured on their farm at Killadeas which is home to the first Herd Navigator" on the island.

Early warnings alert the milk producer to the appropriate quick action needed for individual cows giving detailed instructions for treatment/action, for reproduction, udder health and nutrition. Proactive action will also improve animal welfare and food safety. It is estimated that it will increase the financial yield from each cow by around £210 per cow per year.

Herd Navigator™ focus areas include reproduction, udder health and feeding. Using sophisticated bio-modelling, analytical results are presented on the farmer’s computer in a clear form that makes it easy to spot animals which need special attention including:

l Cows in heat, pregnant cows and cows with reproduction disorders or abortions

l Cows that are developing mastitis, days before clinical signs can be seen

l Early detection of ketosis cases or imbalance in feed ration

The new system will give the milk producer a better overview of the whole herd while providing valuable information on individual cows. Unsurprisingly, Herd Navigator™ is a multi-award winner at prestigious trade events across Europe.

Tickety Moo ice-cream

Back in Fermanagh, the Greys are also very well known for their artisan Tickety Moo Ice-Cream which scooped the Open Flavour Award at the National Ice-Cream Competition last year. The competition is organised by the Ice-Cream Alliance – the trade association for the UK’s £1billion ice-cream industry.

“The DeLaval VMS means that our cows don’t get stressed and this results in a high-quality milk which is ideal for our premium ice-creams,” said Marcus’s brother, Gareth.

He said the system whereby cows can have themselves milked voluntarily is allowing some livestock to be milked up to six times a day if required whereas the labour demands of manual milking would have only allowed this happen twice a day.

There’ll be a series of demonstrations, promotions, prizes, special offers and much more for the general public at Oghill Farm on Thursday, April 28th from 10am to 3pm. All are welcome to attend so why not put it in your diary and come along.