Robotic milking and zero grazing in focus at Lely open day

Jim Irwin, left, Lely Center Eglish, discusses plans for the open day on Thursday 8th October with host Gareth McAdam, Birches, Portadown.
Jim Irwin, left, Lely Center Eglish, discusses plans for the open day on Thursday 8th October with host Gareth McAdam, Birches, Portadown.
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Robotic milking, zero grazing and selective cross breeding have contributed to the improved performance and profitability of the dairy herd at Gareth and Lynne McAdam’s farm near Birches, Portadown.

The County Armagh couple manage a herd of 62 Holstein and Fleckvieh cows currently averaging in excess of 8,500 litres at 3.89% butterfat and 3.42% protein.

The Lely Astronaut A4 milking robot was installed in April 2014, and since then they have witnessed a substantial increase in milk yield.

“Cows were averaging 5,800 litres on the old twice daily conventional system, and this has jumped by over 2,700 litres per cow per year,” explained Gareth.

The milking herd comprises of 54 cows, and an average three milkings per day are recorded by the Lely robot. The highest yielding cow in the herd is producing 44 litres daily, while heifers are peaking at 36 litres.

Labour was an issue on the farm, which prompted Gareth and Lynne to invest in modern technology to simplify the day-to-day management of the herd.

“We opted for a Lely robot because we heard great reports from other farmers. We were also impressed by the fact that Lely Center Eglish operates a 24-hour back-up service 365 days a year.”

Gareth added: “It took a couple of weeks to train the cows, but they adjusted to the new system quite easily. We are pleased with our decision, and the cows are happy and content and milking well.

“The robot also provides a wealth of management information on each individual cow. Mastitis is virtually non-existent, and heat detection is greatly improved.”

Heifers calve into the herd at two-years of age. Holstein heifers were sourced from local herds and farms in southern Ireland, while the Fleckviehs were imported from Austria.

The herd’s breeding policy alternates on an annual basis between Holstein and Fleckvieh sires. “This season they are in-calf to the Holstein bull Ballycairn Oman Pello, and the next time they will be AI’d using Fleckvieh bulls such as Willie.”

Gareth and Lynne’s approach to milking cows changed with the installation of the Lely Astronaut A4 milking robot. “We also introduced a zero grazing policy, and this has proved to be very beneficial, especially in the current economic climate.”

Monthly performance figures collated by McLarnon’s Milk Manager confirm that the herd is currently achieving 3,500 litres from forage.

Lely Center Eglish is staging an open day at Gareth and Lynne McAdam’s farm, 39 Clonmakate Road, Birches, Portadown, BT62 1TZ, on Thursday 8th October from 11.00am to 3.00pm.

During the open day Harold Stevenson from McLarnon Feeds will outline the herd’s performance figures; while Dr Ronald Annett will give a presentation on the economics of zero grazing.

Everyone is welcome, and refreshments will be available throughout the day.

For further information contact Jim Irwin, Lely Center Eglish on mobile: 07827 884639.