"The cows definitely adapt to the system quicker than the farmer."

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John O'Callaghan, Bandon, Co. Cork

“Initially the switch to automatic milking was made for a more flexible lifestyle as I was spending 5 hours a day in the yard and 7 in school with no family time, so something had to give. Farm work now only takes an hour and a half maximum, with the added advantage of doing it at a time that suits. Being able to keep an eye on the T4C (Time for Cows) app on my phone means I won’t go near the farm unless there is an emergency, and I do the main farm work on a Saturday."

"If you need to leave the farm, you can just go!"

The cows manage themselves

“The cows definitely adapt to the system quicker than the farmer! Within 48 hours there was no cow kicking and in less than 2 weeks they were all walking freely in and out of the robot. Often as dairy farmers we are control freaks and feel nobody can milk our cows like we can, when in fact the cow knows best. Robotic milking reduces stress for the farmer but, more importantly, it has also turned out to be a huge benefit for the cows as far as health and longevity goes. They now manage themselves, move at their own pace throughout the day and are more relaxed. This has had a direct correlation on overall herd health. It’s very rare to see cows dripping milk, as they are never too full. Some cows visit the robot 4 times a day at peak; producing 12 to 15 litres each time. This ensures healthier, longer lasting cows. Vet bills are down and treatments are preventative and generally due to adverse weather conditions."

"The cows definitely adapt to the system quicker than the farmer!"

Reduced labour

“We plan ahead on a weekly basis and generally spend 20 to 30 minutes a day back fencing. It took my dad a while to get used to it, as he tended to be over generous with grass allocation! It’s key to keep it tight and ensure that paddocks do not get too strong. We were getting three grazings per paddock but we have now moved this to six with the back fencing, and there are better regrowth rates as well.  What’s also very noticeable is that there is no longer any poaching as smaller numbers of cows are coming and going to the robot at their leisure, 24/7."

The future

“I have no interest in increasing numbers; the aim is to become more efficient and to maximize the herd’s potential with no extra work or stress on the cows. My goal is to produce 2,000 litres a day and be milking 365 days a year. The plan is to have 65 cows milking all year round with 5/6 calving a month and to have a herd average of 150 days in lactation. With one half of the herd in peak milk production and the other half coming back down, there is no pressure on the system as everything is spread out nicely.