David Gillespie milks a herd of 125 British-Friesian type cows alongside his farm manager Ambrose near Naas, Co. Kildare.
The farm has experienced a number of changes in recent years, with the herd transitioning from a year-round production system to a spring milk production system.
While this transition has led to a reduction in herd size, from 140 to 125 cows, David’s plan is to expand the herd to its original size in the future.
The most recent development on the farm has been the construction of a new 16-unit Swiftflo Swing Dairymaster milking parlour.
The farm has moved from a 10-unit milking parlour to the 16-unit Swiftflo Swing milking parlour, which includes:
- Swiftflo pulse and indicator;
- Automatic cluster removers (ACR’s);
- Diversion line;
- Swiftflo mangers;
- Electronic feeders;
- Autowasher; and
- CoolControl tank.
Work-life balance in Co. Kildare
David works off-farm full-time, so creating a better work-life balance was an essential consideration when updating the farm’s milking infrastructure.
David said: “Our old parlour was a 10-unit parlour that was built in the 1960s with a lot of other sheds built around it, so expanding it wasn’t possible.
“With me having an off-farm job I looked at robots, but they would need someone there all the time – which didn’t suit my situation.
“Instead I decided on a parlour, but one that was easy to milk in and also efficient.
“We built the new parlour in an existing shed, with the parlour now located in the old machinery shed.
”We installed a 16-unit Swiftflo Swing parlour with room for 20, if we decide in the future it is needed.
“It has been a massive jump forward for the farm, the old parlour was from the 1960’s so it was very basic.”
Continuing, David said: “There were two main reason as to why we looked at a new parlour.
“The first being milk storage; we couldn’t fit a bigger tank in the space we had and it was also struggling to cool the milk.
“The second was getting staff and keeping cows happy. The old parlour was awkward to operate, had a low roof and got very hot in the summer.
“It is lot easier for whoever is milking, it also has future-proofed the farm,” he said.
Ease of milking
The transition into the new parlour has been a big change for David and Ambrose.
Giving some insight, David said: “It just so much easier, no matter who is milking.
“Anyone can jump in and do the milking and you don’t have to worry about mastitis spreading from cow to cow.
“The Swiftflo pulse and indicator have been good for detecting cows with reduced yields.
“We have also found the electronic feeders great, you can easily adjust the amount of concentrates being fed to cows.”
Continuing, David said: “Having ACR’s makes things just so easy, there’s no panic.
“You can milk at your ease; in the old parlour you were always rushing to make sure you weren’t over milking cows. We have a massive improvement in udder health because of this.
“Cell count was always fairly good in the old parlour, but it has decreased more in the new parlour.
“We have the ClusterCleanse on all the time and we are now getting average cell counts in 60,000 cells/ml to 70,000 cells/ml.
“The cluster is always clean going onto cows, which means no bacteria is being passed on.”
Reduced milking time
Working full-time, farming and balancing family can be difficult, so reducing milking time and increasing efficiency was important to David.
“You can milk very quickly in the parlour when needs be, if you have something on you know you’ll be finished within an hour and a half,” he said.
‘We installed the Autowasher on the parlour, which means once you have finished milking and washed up you are done.
“You’re not waiting around for the wash to finish and you know it has been done correctly no matter who’s milking.
“The bottom fill on the tank has also been great, by the time you’ve finished milking the milk is cool.
“That was a major issue in the old parlour, we had two milk tanks and they were always struggling to cool the milk.”
The biggest change on the farm, since the installation of the new parlour David said, is the reduction in stress.
“It’s stress-free, the old parlour was levers and taps – where the new parlour is just push a button,” he said.
“Your in and out of the cows much quicker and no matter who’s milking you know that it has been done correctly.”