"We have flexibility that we never had before, and it takes some amount of pressure off at the busier times of the year "  Denis Hickey

Denis & Dermot

Simplicity is key on dairy farm at the Cork/Kerry border

Denis and Dermot Hickey are a father and son partnership farming on the Cork side of the border village of Rathmore, building on the work that Denis and his wife Maureen did over the years. They are currently milking 86 cows on 2 Lely A5 astronauts.

In 2018, the Hickey family were milking 70 cows in a 10 unit milking parlour. When the time came to upgrade, Denis and Dermot looked at all options available to them. With a very tight grazing block of 23 hectares, they wanted to maximise grass and production. The grazing block is supported by three outside parcels totalling 38 hectares, bringing the total area of the farm to 61. All followers are kept either for replacements or calf to beef.

We would have heavy enough ground here and do not have a real long grazing season. We built an underpass 20 years ago. We took into consideration that because of the small grazing platform that Dermot would at some point work off farm, so we needed to be very labour efficient. Lely had an open day in the area with a local farmer who seemed to be getting on very well grazing with the Lely robots and that gave us added confidence in the system.

What we saw that day was a Lely robot slotted in to where the parlour used to be and that suited what we wanted to do as we were looking to keep infrastructure spending to a minimum

The first Lely Astronaut A5 was fitted in 2019 and was put into the existing milking parlour.

The Lely Sales Advisor told us that the first few months would be a big learning curve for us and so it was. We received great back up and support from the team at Lely Center Mitchelstown from day one which made the transition a lot easier and now we are delighted with the results.”

A second A5 Astronaut was installed in March of this year on the other side of the old parlour.

Dermot says,

We were on about 76 cows on the first Astronaut and it was maxed out at that, we had more grass than ever before probably due to improved grassland management, back fencing etc. We had plenty of replacements coming through, so we decided to go with a second robot and push on to 90 cows. Movement of cows is key with ABC grazing. We are getting around 2.4 milking’s per cow per day, so our best cows are getting milked 3 times a day

Dermot added,

We still have room for improvement in grassland management and breeding, so 90+ cows are achievable with buffer feed being sourced on the outside blocks if necessary. We are delighted with the output increase since 2018. On our last year on the old parlour, we produced 26,000 kgs of milk solids off the grazing block (371 kgs/cow) and this year we are projected to do 41000Kgs (476 Kgs/ cow). We feed just 1.2ton of meal per cow/per year”

Lifestyle is another key factor at Hickeys. “We have flexibility that we never had before, and it takes some amount of pressure off at the busier times of the year. Maureen and I are at the stage in life now where we want to take things a bit easier and Dermot for the moment does some work off farm we all have a way better quality of life than we used to have”