Lely rounds off autumn open days with visit to Loughgilly farm

Derek Coulter checks the performance of each individual cow in his herd using Lely's T4C computer programe.
Derek Coulter checks the performance of each individual cow in his herd using Lely's T4C computer programe.

The popularity of robotic milking technology continues to grow with Lely Center Eglish reporting that almost 300 people attended its recent open days at Portadown and Tempo.

As a result Jim Irwin of Lely Center Eglish has announced that the company will round off its series of autumn open days on Friday 6th November with a visit to the Loughgilly farm of Trevor and Derek Coulter.

Outling plans for next week's Lely open day are Colin Bell, left, Lely Center Eglish, with host farmers Derek and Trevor Coulter, Loughgilly.

Outling plans for next week's Lely open day are Colin Bell, left, Lely Center Eglish, with host farmers Derek and Trevor Coulter, Loughgilly.

The Coulter Bros run an extensive farm business totalling 200 hectares, and comprising of 145 dairy cows, a flock of commercial ewes, a suckler herd and a beef finishing enterprise.

Up until twelve months ago Trevor and Derek were milking in a conventional 20:20 parlour which was only nine-years-old.

Derek explains: “We wanted to maximise the potential of the dairy herd by introducing three-times-a-day milking. Labour was going to be an issue, so we decided to explore the labour-saving benefits of robotic technology.”

After visiting farms in Northern Ireland and Holland, Trevor and Derek opted to purchase two Lely Astronaut A4 milking robots. “Lely was our number one choice, simply because of its world-wide reputation, and the excellent back-up service which operates around the clock 365 days of the year.”

Since installing the Lely Astronaut A4 milking robots Trevor and Derek have noticed an overall improvement in cow management, which has led to better heat detection, increased fertility and improved production.

Derek added: “Cows are managed on an individual basis, and concentrate feeding is targeted depending on each cow’s performance. The robots are recording an average of 2.9 milkings per day, and we have noticed an increase in milk yields by almost 30%.

“We’ve reduced cow numbers slightly, but with the new system we are aiming to produce in excess of 8,000 litres per cow per year. Butterfat and protein levels are also improved, currently averaging 4.07% and 3.30% respectively.

“The robots allow us to monitor the cows easily, and there is a wealth of information available at the touch of button thanks to Lely’s T4C computer programme. It’s a very farmer-friendly system and allows us to identify cows that are off-form and not performing as well as they should.”

Herd nutrition is monitored regularly by David Beacom and Alan Hurst from Lakeland Dairies Agribusiness. The cows receive a total mixed ration based on silage, straw and blend, and are fed a maximum of 12 kilos per head per day of concentrates through the robot.

“High quality forage and a balanced diet is key to efficient milk production, and Trevor and Derek are currently achieving maintenance plus 11 litres of milk per cow per day from forage,” explained nutritionist Alan Hurst. The highest yielding cows in the herd are producing in excess of 40 litres, while heifers are peaking at 37 litres.

Trevor added: “Prior to installing the robots we had to walk the cows back and forward across the yard from the cubicle shed to the milking parlour. The robots were easy to accommodate. All we had to do was add a few extra bays onto the existing shed, and now our dairy enterprise is self-contained under one roof.”

Both Trevor and Derek confess to being very satisfied with the system. “Milking is a time-consuming job, but the robots have given us flexibility, and allow us to free-up time to concentrate on other jobs around the farm,” said Derek. “We do all or our own field cultivation work, forage harvesting and slurry spreading.”

Visitors to the Lely Open Day will also have an opportunity to see the Lely Barn Cleaner in operation. “It’s another great labour-saving device, and the cows and cubicles are much cleaner,” added Trevor.

The Coulter brothers are also very fond of their Lely Treatment Box which includes hoists as well as leg and head lifts, and can be used for a variety of tasks including foot trimming, routine veterinary treatments and AI.

Throughout the day nutritionist Alan Hurst will be talking about herd performance, highlighting the necessity of good cow condition, and the importance of a balanced diet when feeding high yielding dairy cows.

The Coulter family’s farm is situated at 38 Bolton Road, Loughgilly, Markethill, Co Armagh, BT60 2DU. Signs will be posted off the Markethilll to Newry road and runs from 11.00am to 3.00pm. For further information contact Jim Irwin on: 07827 884639 or Colin Bell on: 07917 524575.