Lyons’ Estate farm, part of UCD’s faculty of agriculture and veterinary medicine, has recently received a major upgrade, the focal point of which has been the development of a new dairy research and teaching unit. The work included the building of a new cubicle shed, milking parlour and dairy for 220 cows.
Lyons’ farm manager Dr Eddie Jordan explained that the new unit was required for a number of reasons.
“In the first instance we wanted to build up dairy cow numbers up to 200 head. The previous facilities were built 40 years ago and would never have allowed us to meet this target.
“We also wanted to install bespoke calving pens while providing all the animals with the highest possible levels of comfort. The new unit has also been designed to ensure optimal health and safety standards for the team working on-site.
“Flexibility was also a key driver in terms of our thinking. Yes, we want to make best use of grass with the cows. But research trials can require groups of animals to be maintained indoors at any time of the year.
“So, again it was important that we could meet this requirement from both the perspective of the research teams and the cattle involved.”
The Lyons’ herd is currently split into two groups: 140 spring calving cows and 60 autumn calvers. The cows are currently averaging 7800L with total solids coming in at 600 kg per cow per lactation. Approximately 1.5t of concentrates is fed per cow per annum, depending on research needs.
Jordan explained that Holstein Friesian bloodlines predominate within the Lyons’ herd.
“This is the type of cow that we want. Replacements are bred from top EBI bulls,” he added.
The new accommodation features 220 EasyFix cubicles, double foam mattresses, walkway matting at the feed face as well as rubber matting in the collecting yard, race, and isolation pens. A bespoke scratching area is included with each cubicle frame. The double cubicles have an individual base length of 2.4m: the singles are 2.8m in length.
“The new facilities are designed to provide best in class cubicle housing and to maximise lying times of up to 14 hours per day,” explained EasyFix’s P J Burke, who was a recent visitor to Lyons’ farm.
“Cows enter the cubicles in a relaxed state and the flexible plastic tubing with rubber loop has been designed to prevent bruising or injuries to any part of the animal.
“The double foam mattress incorporates 50mm of latex foam in a 500 micro sealed envelope. It provides a very high level of comfort and an injury free environment for the high yielding, high EBI herd.”
Jordan confirmed that the Lyons’ cows seem content in the new environment: “I particularly wanted the cubicle mats installed, as opposed to mattresses,” he said.
“If problems arise with mats, then they can be replaced individually. Where mattresses are concerned, the only option in such circumstances is to replace what was originally fitted to cover an entire cubicle row. And this can become expensive. We also specified a 13ml brisket board, which EasyFix provided for us.”
He concluded: “After two winters the EasyFix approach has delivered the degree of comfort that we wanted for the cows.”