LELY Center Eglish is extending a warm welcome to an Open Day at Glengeen Farm near Trillick
on Thursday, December 16, from 11am to 3pm.
Owned by Keith and Amy Latimer, the County Tyrone-based farm is home to a herd of 120 commercial cows. Predominately British Friesian, with a few Jersey and Swedish Red crosses, the herd has seen a significant increase in milk yield since the introduction of robotic milking technology in March this year.
Two Lely Astronaut A5 robots were installed almost nine months ago, and already the Lakeland Dairies producers have welcomed an increase in milk yield. The herd average was around 6,500 litres at 4.38 per cent butterfat and 3.54 per cent protein, but is steadily on course to produce in excess on 8,000 litres per cow.
Investing in robotic technology has also enhanced the quality of family life in the Latimer household. Third generation farmer Keith explained: “My grandfather milked cows at Glengeen back in the day, and we revived the dairy enterprise from scratch in 1995.
“The robots have completely changed my life. For years I was spending up to seven hours every day milking cows in a five-point double-up parlour. It was becoming a relentless and laborious task, and I was finding the constant regime both physically and mentally challenging. I was also missing out on quality family time, simple things, such as enjoying an evening meal with my wife and kids.”
Keith and Amy first witnessed labour-saving robotic technology when they visited a Lely Open Day, hosted by the Rafferty family in Poyntzpass.
“Over the last five or six years we have been considering upgrading our facilities. We looked at a new unit and parlour on a greenfield site, but were restricted by the layout of the farm, and the fact that the yard is divided by the country road,” added Keith, who is assisted on the farm by his father John.
“It made practical and financial sense to upgrade our existing sheds. Minimal building work was needed to facilitate the two A5 robots. The whole project was managed by the team at Lely Center Eglish. From the outset they produced preliminary, and then detailed plans of the project.
“Lely Center Eglish is dedicated to every step of the process, right from overseeing and liaising with the building contractor, to commissioning and starting-up the robots. They even provide regular on-farm software training and support.”
Building work at Glengeen Farm commenced in November 2020, and the entire re-novation was completed with minimum expense. “It was a slick operation, and I was able to milk in the parlour right up until the robots were commissioned on 9th March. The cows adjusted to the new regime within a couple of weeks, and the entire set-up has refreshed my approach to milking cows. I’m still hands-on, but I can manage the herd and the business more efficiently. I also have more free-time to enjoy family life and social activities such as swimming and rugby.”
Keith admits to being sceptical about going down the robotic route. “We had lots of questions, and doubted our ability to embrace modern technology. We also worried about our cows not being good enough. Lely salesman Dean Cashel guided us through the whole process, answered our questions, and gave us the opportunity to visit family farms with similar dairy enterprises.”
Keith added: “The robots do exactly what they are supposed to do! We have been able to maximise the potential of the herd, and have been surprised to see the health and welfare benefits to the cows. We have cows up to tenth lactation on the system, and we’re averaging 3.1 milkings per day.
“Since moving to robotic milking the top heifers are giving an extra eight litres per day. Our best cows are yielding in excess of 43 litres daily, and many individuals have projected lactations over 9,000 litres with butterfat peaking at 4.6 per cent.”
The increase in milk yields at Glengeen Farm has been attributed to better management and improved feed efficiency. “In the parlour we were feeding between 0.45 and 0.5kgs of meal for every kilo of milk produced, but we’ve been able to reduce this to 0.38kgs.
“The cows are kept in one batch, and fed a TMR ration of silage, blend and straw. The rise in production has been achieved by managing the cows individually, based on yield and stage of lactation. In the parlour everything was fed flat rate, but now we can tweak the feed levels accordingly.”
Keith continued: “Concentrates are fed in the robot. The 20 per cent protein dairy nut is capped at 12kgs per head, but we are currently averaging around 8kgs per head per day. We’ve recently installed a second meal bin, and the plan is to work with our nutritionist to ‘fine tune’ the feeding regime even further.
“The Lely T4C computer software is farmer friendly, and a wealth of herd management data is freely available. I’m able to generate health reports which help to highlight a drop in yield, changes in temperature, mastitis, rumination and heat detection.
“There is less room for human error, and when I’m away from the farm I can keep abreast of what is happening via Lely’s In-Herd App. Our daughters Sophia, nine, and Nicole, seven, are also embracing the new technology and are taking a keen interest in the business.”
The herd’s calving index is 383 days, and 94 per cent of the herd are back in-calf within 100 days. Keith is impressed with the design of the Lely Astronaut A5, and the high level of expertise and service provided by Lely Center Eglish.
“Overall our experien-ce has been excellent. Lely certainly has the edge when it comes to technology and cus-
tomer service. The num-
ber of Lely robots in Northern Ireland is test-imony to the high level of service provided by local engineers.”
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