Milking a lot quicker than I did’
manding for the farmer who wants to expand the system for bigger throughput at a later stage unless adequate provision is made at the initial planning stage.
On the plus side, promoters of the robotic system claim that the option for the cow to choose the frequency of milking can contribute to increased yield.
The majority of dairy farmers — at least three in every four — will be faced with considerable investment in updating or expanding facilities within the next few years, said Teagasc area manager Donal Mullane.
His concern is that “very many of them could make costly mistakes” unless they put adequate thought into what is best suited to their particular needs and financial situation “both of which will vary a lot from farm to farm”.
“The Tipperary advisors and myself have been discussing the capital investment on dairy farms for some time,” he said, adding they feel farmers must carry out significant investigation before making their decision.
“The background is an expanding dairy industry and almost every dairy farmer either has, or will have to, spend some money on facilities. With that in mind we don’t want to see people making mistakes which at the end of the day could be very costly,” he added.
Brian Prendergast, Lely area sales manager, south west region, told the Farming Independent that sales of robotic milking systems in Ireland are up 70pc on 2016. “Ireland is now the largest market for our robotic milking systems in Europe,” he said.
There is now a lead time of up to six months for supply from the placing of the order with the Lely European production plant in Holland because of the demand.
“Farmers are adopting to robotics more easily, and the systems are more reliable because the guesswork is gone. A lot of farmers are going robotic because of the labour saving.
“Most of the farmers are including heat detection and SCC monitoring in their systems but they are not anxious to overspend and more or less installing what is considered necessary,” said Mr Prendergast.
The number of robotic milking systems installed by the company in Ireland and the UK has now passed 1,500 units and sales have grown rapidly since the abolition of EU milk quotas
Meanwhile, Donal Mullane cautioned: “The biggest mistake a farmer can make is to put in a system that they find out afterwards is not suited to their particular situation, be that the type of unit, the size of the unit, or the location of the unit on their farm. Building the dairy unit in the wrong place can become a big issue on some farms.
“We are asking farmers to consider where they plan to be in five to 10 years and make their decision to fit in with that.”
Graham Swanton, farm manager; Donal Mullane, Teagasc area manager, and Bill Carroll on Bill’s farm at Kilsheelan, Co Tipperary