Ballybogy farm installs 100th Lely robot in Northern Ireland

Jim Irwin, right, Lely Center Eglish, pictured with the Steele family from Ballybogy - William, Samuel, Robert and Thomas.
Jim Irwin, right, Lely Center Eglish, pictured with the Steele family from Ballybogy - William, Samuel, Robert and Thomas.

NORTH Antrim farmers, William Steele, and sons Samuel, Robert and Thomas, have marked an important milestone in the history of Lely Center Eglish.

The Ballybogy-based dairy farmers are the proud owners of the 100th Lely Astronaut milking robot in Northern Ireland.

Having sold a number of fragmented farms in 2004 the Steele family decided to purchase one larger holding with enough grazing ground for a large dairy herd.

Thomas explained they have been developing the farm in three stages, starting with a new building, followed by a new milking system and finally more grazing ground.

With the building completed the family began researching their future milking system early in 2012.

“Having considered all the options we weren’t biased towards a parlour or robotic milking,” commented Samuel.

However when they learned about the possibilities for improved management of a large herd with the Lely Astronaut A4 milking robot, they decided to investigate further.

“We felt Lely was the most experienced and best established company in our area, and would be able to provide us with the quality of service needed for a large herd.

“We installed our four Astronauts in the middle of November last year. The robots are great, but the Lely Center staff made them brilliant. Our local Lely Center in Eglish is high class, very professional to deal with and all questions are answered promptly. We are learning all the time and are delighted with the progress so far. Three months on and we are already seeing the real benefits of the Lely Astronaut automatic milking system. The cows have adapted really quickly,” said Robert.

Thomas continued: “The quality and availability of up-to-date information from the T4C management system is tremendous. Sick cows are now being identified much sooner than with the milking parlour. The information is allowing us eliminate problems before they arise. We can now manage our cows properly, instead of just milking them.

“I am now far more aware of which cows are not performing and need to be culled. We had too many passengers and we can’t afford them no,” added William.

“Even if we saved no time, we are still much better off milking more efficient cows. Some cows are now doing 60 litres, and we never saw that in the parlour. When we started we were producing 4,200 litres per day with 195 cows. Three months later and we are producing 5,200 with 185 cows, and are now using second cut silage,” said Thomas.

“We now have much more flexibility which will be a big help especially during the busy silage and harvest seasons. All jobs are now finished before 7.45am with at least an extra hour and a half in bed,” commented Samuel.

“With my wife currently doing a course it allows me to be home on time to look after the kids. It was nice to spend Christmas morning with them this year for a change - it means a lot.

“Now that the milking system is sorted we want to get the grazing right. Our intention is also to increase our cow numbers to 260 to reach full capacity with each robot,” concludes Samuel.

Lely Center Eglish is hosting a series of open days over the coming weeks. Anyone interested in finding out more about the flexibility and labour-saving benefits of the Astronaut A4 milking robots is welcome to attend. The dates and venues are:

Wednesday, March 13 – Derwin Lindsay’s farm, 3 Lougher Road, Sion Mills, Co Tyrone, BT82 9NG.

Wednesday, March 20 – Drayne Farms, 1 Glenavy Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim, BT28 3UP.

Thursday, April 4 – James Reid’s farm, 31 Moneycannon Road, Ballymoney, Co Antrim, BT53 7LG.

The open days will run from 10am to 3pm each day. For further information contact Jim Irwin on mobile: 07827 884639; or Colin Bell on mobile: 07917 524575.