Pat & Tom Mooney, Adrian Prior, Co. Laois

x2 Lely A5 Astronaut Automatic Milking System & x1 Lely Discovery SW90

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Farm automation

Pat and Tom Mooney farm with their nephew, Adrian Prior, in Ballynafushin, Durrow, Co. Laois. They run a dairy enterprise, with the herd averaging 5,800L in 2021, alongside a calf-to-beef system, where animals are finished at two years old. In recent years, the farm has a major leap forward and converted to an automatic milking system, with two Lely Astronaut A5 milking robots currently operating on the farm.

Farm automation journey

Their journey commenced when Adrian was in agricultural college and the trio visited the Lely stand at the Ploughing Championships in 2018. After seeing the Lely Astronaut robot in action on the day, it encouraged them to visit existing robotic milking farms around the country to gain knowledge on the system. This gave them confidence in the system and resulted in them installing a single Lely Astronaut A5 milking robot.

As there was a need for more cubicles on the farm they decided to build a new, purpose-built shed, designed for two robots. The shed consists of 80 cubicles leading to a slatted area in front of the robots. Due to the success of the first robot the farm installed a second Astronaut A5 in 2021 to allow for the herd to expand further.

Farm improvements

“Since the robot was installed, milk output per cow has increased by between 7-10%. Another big change that we have seen is in the cows temperament, they have calmed significantly as there is no longer anyone driving them in to be milked, they come to the robots to be milked at the time they want to be milked, at their own pace and often in the middle of the night,” Adrian said.

He continued; “on the fertility side, our six-week calving rate is now 89% and we have less repeats. AI is now timed better due to the heat detection and health monitoring collars on the cows that were installed as part of the overall system.”

Cow flow was central to the design of the shed, while also ensuring that there was space left to install a second robot easily. Priority is taken when designing sheds to ensure that there are no bottle necks to deter cows from moving from the cubicles to the robots and the same principle applied when design the grazing layout for the farm. In addition, they have a sizeable draft area at the back of the robot where cows are automatically drafted when they are in heat, sick or need attention.

Discovery SW90 robotic scraper

“We installed a Discovery SW90 robotic scraper instead of a standard hydraulic scraper to clean the passageways of the shed. It uniquely wets the ground as it cleans, making both the area cleaner and far less slippery,” Adrian outlined.

“The Discovery has changed our lives in how it cleans the shed, including the slatted areas and as a result the cows themselves are now much cleaner. It is set to do regular routes around the shed and can be targeted to scrape certain high traffic areas more than others, such as in-front of the robots for example. The cows are more comfortable walking around the shed as the ground is less slippery. There is less manure being pulled onto the cubicles and lameness is also reduced within the herd. Cell count within the herd is also very low and I put a lot of this down to how clean the shed is kept, I’d recommend a Discovery it to anyone looking to clean a shed” concluded Adrian.

For more information contact Lely Center Mullingar on 044 9330320