The 350-cow pedigree unit is owned by Stephen Haffey, and sons Timothy, David and Aaron, who produce more than four million of litres of milk annually.
The Haffey family from Lurgan has been using robotic milking technology for over seven years, but in 2021 decided to replace their original robots with six Lely A5 Astronaut models.
“Reliability, and an efficient back-up service, is vital for the day-to-day running of our dairy enterprise,” explained Timothy Haffey. “We were having ongoing issues with our previous brand, so we decided to upgrade the robots.
“Installing a rotary parlour would have required a new shed on a green field site,” explained Aaron Haffey. “When we worked out the figures it made practical, and economic sense, to replace the robots.”
The Haffey family didn’t shop around on this occasion. They were determined to invest in Lely technology, as the company has an unrivalled reputation for experience, quality and consistency.
“Lely is a world-leader in robotic milking technology. There are more than 500 Lely Astronaut robots operating on farms in Northern Ireland, which is testimony to the reliability of the product,” added Aaron. “Speaking to other farmers it is clear that Lely Center Eglish has a highly trained and experienced team, and provides an excellent back-up service 365 days per year.”
The milking portion of the Kilvergan herd is split across two sheds. Fresh calved heifers are managed in one shed with two robots, while the remainder of the herd is located across the yard in a shed designed to accommodate four robots.
“We installed two Lely A5 robots in the heifer shed in May, and a further four in the cow shed in July. The upgrade was fairly straight-forward, as the old robots were pulled out and replaced with the new units. Lely Center Eglish co-ordinated the project, and the team worked hard to keep the disruption to a minimum.”
The Haffey family has noticed an increase in milk yield. Timothy added: “The cows seem to be more content, and yields have increased by almost 1,000 litres per head. We’re averaging three milkings per day. Our herd average is around 11,750kgs at 4.0% butterfat and 3.15% protein.”
Brothers Timothy, David and Aaron, are the third generation of dairy farmers at Kilvergan. “The Lely robots are farmer-friendly, and they do exactly what they were supposed to do,” added Timothy. “Thankfully we’ve encountered no break downs or disruption since upgrading to Lely, and are able to enjoy a shorter working day, and more family time at weekends.”
The Astronaut A5’s I-flow design improves accessibility and cow traffic. The hybrid arm is energy efficient and aimed at increasing performance.
“We are really impressed with the overall milking process. The brushes improve teat preparation before milking, and the speed of attachment is fast and accurate. Post milking spraying is also more precise. Overall, the Lely Astronaut A5 provides a better experience for the cows,” added Aaron.
“Daily reports give valuable insights into animal health and performance. The information is displayed on a customised dashboard, which can be easily accessed from a computer, or remotely via a smartphone.”
Timothy Haffey: “Our last robots were quite basic, but the Lely system provides a wealth of valuable management tools. Reports on rumination, cow temperature, milk components and cell count, can be easily accessed. It definitely makes life easier, and helps to improve herd health and performance.”
Heifers calve into the herd at twenty-four-months of age. Fresh calved heifers are managed in a separate shed, designed to include a separation area used to train heifers to use the robotic system.
Cows and heifers are fed a TMR diet comprising of grass, maize and wholecrop silage. The ration is formulated for maintenance plus 22 litres, and a 17% crude protein nut is fed via the robot to a maximum of 12kgs per head per day.
“Each animal is managed individually, with concentrates allocated according to yield. The cows are very content and have settled into the new regime, and are milking well,” added Timothy who supplies milk to Lakeland Dairies. “Our highest yielding cows are peaking at 74 litres per day, while heifers are producing up to 55 litres. Overall, fertility, conception and pregnancy rates have improved. Our calving interval is 385 days.”
The award-winning Kilvergan Holstein herd boasts generations of VG and EX classified cows. The breeding policy focuses on producing females with strength, longevity, udder quality, and good feet and legs. Top cow families include Earle, Ethel, Laurie Shiek and Amy.