Robotic milking with the Lely Astronaut and grazing go hand in hand. Stephen, David and Mark are using the system to reduce labour and maximise their milk production from grass.

"Having a cell count reading for every cow at every milking is excellent and will help me continually improve the quality and efficiency of the herd"

Stephen Harte, Riverstick, Co. Cork

Robotic milking with dual purpose Dutch cows in Cork

Stephen Harte started milking his spring calving herd of MRI cows with a Lely Astronaut robot last August. “MRI (Meuse Rhine Issel) is a dual purpose breed that originated in the Netherlands and was developed in the region of the 3 rivers from which it gets its name. I began farming here with my aunt Eithne in 1994 and she started the MRI project over 25 years ago. Originally we had British Friesians and Eithne was seeking a better beef animal as we were rearing all the animals at the time. After some research she discovered the MRI’s, 2 heifers were imported from the Netherlands, some more cows were purchased locally and the herd was built up from there. I have since decided to focus more on their milk production qualities and we have 62 cows calved this spring that are currently averaging 26 litres; at 3.4 protein and 3.8 butterfat. All cows are purebred through AI and we have no stock bull. They are a very healthy breed that are easy to look after and calve down easily with the added advantage of cull cows being worth more due to their beef traits.” explains Stephen.

Out with the old and in with the new

“I was milking in an 8 unit Herringbone parlour which needed to be updated. It was fine at the time but with increasing cow numbers and the quota era coming to an end, I had to consider my options. I had already invested in an automatic calf feeder. I felt the principal of calves coming and going to the feeder and being fed automatically would be no different for cows from a milking perspective. Labour was another key reason for considering robotic milking and with a young family I wanted a more flexible way of working. My wife is happier now that she is seeing more of me and I am not tied to morning and evening milking. The cows took to the system really well and were all milking by themselves within a week.” he smiles.

Robotic milking and Grazing with an Underpass

“Now after the calving season we are really beginning to see benefits of the system labour wise.  I’m using an ABC grazing system and I’m very pleased with how well the cows are moving between paddocks. They are milking on average 2.5 times daily and come and go to the Lely Astronaut milking robot at their leisure.  The first thing I considered before investing in a new milking system was an underpass. I felt it would be a big help for the ease of movement of cows and for getting them to the parlour irrespective of which milking system I chose. As a result my grazing management will be even better this year.” states Stephen.

Time for cow’s management programme

“The Lely T4C (time for cows) is excellent from an information point of view. You can clearly see the cows that are not performing well and make individual cow based decisions. This allowed me to have a more targeted approach to drying off last autumn. Instead of having a blanket dry period based on the calendar, low yielders were dried off earlier without really affecting milk production in the tank. This also helps reduce feed costs and manage cell count issues, which are usually higher at the end of lactation. Having a cell count reading for every cow at every milking is excellent. It will help me continually improve the quality and efficiency of the herd.” he comments.

Building work and Project co ordination

“I found the project co-ordination from Lely a great help. As well as the underpass we built a very simple shed at minimal cost for the robot. We established a grazing layout that was best suited to my farm and the whole system works very well. I am delighted with the results so far and firmly believe robotic milking is the future.” concludes Stephen.

"The working day consists of 20 minutes early morning, carrying out the routine daily robot tasks (cleaning the laser, changing milk filter sock and checking the attention cow list). This gives us plenty of time to do the other daily jobs of moving fences, grass budgeting etc."

David Dolan, Hollymount, Co. Mayo

Grazing with the Lely Astronaut

Father and son, Louis & David Dolan are milking 90 Spring/Autumn calving Holstein Friesian cows outside Hollymount in Co. Mayo. Operating on a grazing platform of 65 acres, cows are let out to grass from mid-February. Herd average is 7,500 litres per cow with 3.30% protein and 4.20% fat. TBC’s are 4,000 and SCC’s are running at 100,000 cells per ml. The Dolans installed their first Lely robot in April 2016 and milked 70 cows successfully through the year. This spring, with increasing cow numbers, they opted for their second Lely robot and will be milking over 90 cows by month end. 

Labour saving, more time and flexibility

“I was milking cows for 41 years in an old 8 unit parlour and decided it was time for change. We were spending over 5 hours per day milking whereas now, we are still as busy as ever but not milking cows anymore. I like the change of lifestyle and granted we are spending as much time on the farm doing other jobs; we still have more time to get work done as often times, things were put on the long finger in the past. The great thing is the flexibility in the evenings as we are not tied to milking cows anymore so we can come and go as we please.” says Louis. “The working day consists of 20 minutes early in the morning carrying out the routine daily robot tasks (cleaning the laser, changing milk filter sock and checking the attention cow list). This gives us plenty of time to do the other daily jobs of moving fences, fertilising paddocks and grass budgeting.” states David.

Grazing and Robotic milking

“Our first year was demanding enough starting out – it took about a week for the cows to adjust to the robot and a while longer for them to get the hang of grazing. We struggled a bit with cow movement early on but one year on; and with a few issues ironed out, cows are moving well now. They fully understand the system and we are very comfortable growing and allocating grass. We are operating an A & B grazing system which ensures the cows are offered fresh grass every 12 hours. They are averaging 33 litres per day on 5kg of concentrate with 2.3 milking’s per cow at the moment and cows are very happy.” says David.

Health and Contentment

“Contentment and temperament is very noticeable and cows are less stressed and easy to handle nowadays. They have lost the herd mentality and are more docile and placid about the place and they come and go as they please. Cow condition has certainly improved due to the “feed to yield option” – ration feeding ranges from 2kg up to 9kg pending yield and cows producing more milk are fed more ration accordingly. On this system we have saved about 20 tonnes of meal which equated to €7,000 last year.” admits David.

Mastitis Detection

“Mastitis and Somatic Cell Count have always been a farm issue and while it is not fully cured; the Lely Astronaut has certainly identified cows much earlier to allow us treat with anti-inflammatories and udder mint. This has resulted in less antibiotic treatments of cows and less milk being discarded resulting in more milk hitting the tank.” comments David. 


“The 24/7 Service from Lely Center Mullingar is excellent; 90% of our issues are sorted remotely via telephone or laptop without ever the need for a call out.” concludes David. 

"We chose Lely because they are totally committed to robotic milking and they have given us great support since install."

Mark Drohan, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Waterford

Robots key influencer in Carrick

Mark Drohan farms with his mother Trish and grandparents Brendan and Margaret in Ballynevin, Carrick on Suir, Co. Waterford. He installed 2 Lely Astronaut milking robots over 3 years ago while still in his mid 20's. His late father David was one of the key influencers in making robots increasingly popular in the local area and thanks to his initial groundwork it has since become a huge success on their farm and neighbouring farms.

Milk production with the Lely Astronaut

“We are milking 145 Holstein and Montbeliarde cows in a spring calving system that are currently averaging 27kg of milk at 3.45% Protein, 4% Butterfat and SCC is 80,000.

Lifestyle was one of our key reasons for choosing robotic milking. We are no longer tied to morning and evening milking and the flexibility of the system allows me more time to tidy up on other jobs that would have been neglected in the past. The workload was also becoming more demanding as we increased cow numbers, we felt that the information from the robot would give us a clear understanding of where we were production wise and ensure we made better cow based decisions. We chose Lely as they were the only company in the area fully committed to robotic milking and they have given us great support since installation.” states Mark.

Udder health benefits

“For me one of the best features of the Lely Astronaut is the somatic cell count reader, I wouldn't be without it. Along with the mastitis indication per quarter I am in total control, there is no guess work! I have advanced warning of any potential out breaks developing. The Pura- steam cleaning of each cup gives me great confidence in the prevention of any cross contamination between milkings.” notes Mark.

Robotic milking and grazing

“We have an AB grazing platform. I find that the number one reason cows travel to the robot is the urge to be milked, access to fresh grass would be second and third would be meal in the robot trough. Mature cows will always know when they need to be milked and will travel no matter how much grass is left in the paddock. I don't need to make dramatic changes during late lactation to keep cows moving, I just add silage to the buffer feed fence. My cows are averaging 2.4 milkings per day.I am happy with their production figures however I expect it to increase over the coming weeks."

Back up and support

Lely Center Enniscorthy provides 24 hour robot specialist back up and a farm management support package to all their customers. "This system would not work without support from the Center. The difference between robotic milking and traditional methods of farming is that you are buying into the company, the idea and also a different way of farming.” concludes Mark.

Stephen, David and Mark invite you to attend their Open Days


Stepehn Harte
Co. Cork
Open Day 11am-3 pm
Tuesday 18th April 
The farm will be signposted from the Halfway roundabout.

David and Louis Dolan
Co. Mayo
Open Day 11am-3 pm
Wednesday 19th April
The farm will be signposted from the N17 at Ballindine; the main Tuam - Clarmorris rd.

Mark Drohan
Co. Waterford
Open day 11am-3 pm
Thursday 20th April
The farm will be signposted
from Carrick-on-Suir.

For further details please contact:

Brian Prendergast Lely Center Mitchelstown 087 9326983
Alan Heaney Lely Center Mullingar 087 9066479
David Redmond Lely Center Enniscorthy 0872597861



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