John Curtin with his pedigree cow Apple from The Rosstemple Pedigree Holstein Herd

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John, who farms near the village of Athlacca, Co. Limerick is the owner of the highly accredited Rosstemple herd of pedigree Holsteins. John’s herd comprises of 65 cows and operates a split calving system with 75% calving in the spring and the remainder in autumn.

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John is a proud father to 5 children, and found he needed to reduce the workload on the farm in order to prioritise family life. Prior to changing to a robotic milking system, he was spending up to 2.5 hours milking morning and evening in an 8-unit parlour. “Things are a lot more flexible now, with 5 young ones they need to be brought here, there and everywhere and now, it’s just so much easier.”

John came down in numbers when he decided to install a Lely Astronaut A5 robot, going from 90 down to 65. However, despite reducing the herd size he finds with the robot that there is more milk per cow – averaging 2.8 milkings per cow, per day and being able to feed them individually means he can ensure they are getting what they need.

For most farmers when adapting the milking parlour, it can be a worrying time anticipating how the cows are going to react to the change, but thankfully for John “The cows took to it like ducks to water, once the first week was out of the way, they were fine. It’s probably more of a learning curve for the farmer”.

John also commented on the amount of data that is now available to him about the herd through Horizon. “It’s unreal, we have the world of data from Horizon. The more information we have, the more we tend to use it in terms of analysing herd performance and overall herd health.”

When doing his research on robotic milking, John attended numerous open days and visiting other robot farmers.  “I saw enough of them to know that they work.” When starting the work to put in the robot on his farm, he was lucky enough to not have to do much in terms of roadway infrastructure and just had to build the robot room. Futureproofing his farm, he decided to leave room for a second robot, should he decide to expand down the line.  As a one-man operation, he finds the automatic heat detection and drafting particularly handy for AI-ing cows, and the return separation feature enables him to select cows on the system to be drafted back through a footbath. This saves him endless time on the farm and ensures animal husbandry standards are kept to their highest standards.

Maintaining and operating the robot is very straightforward according to John “if you ever have a question, or there is anything you are unsure of, you just pick up the phone – day or night and Lely Center Mitchelstown are there to help.”