Robots improve milk yields and family life at Glengeen Farm

LELY Center Eglish welcomes you to an open house at Glengeen Farm near Trillick

Thursday December 16 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Owned by Keith and Amy Latimer, the County Tyrone Farm is home to a herd of 120 commercial cows. Mostly British Frisian, with a few red crosses from Jersey and Sweden, the herd has seen a significant increase in milk production since the introduction of robotic milking technology in March of this year.

Two Lely Astronaut A5 robots were installed almost nine months ago and producers at Lakeland Dairies have already welcomed an increase in milk production. The herd average was around 6,500 liters at 4.38 percent fat and 3.54 percent protein, but is on track to produce over 8,000 liters per cow.

Investment in robotic technology has also improved the quality of family life in the Latimer household. Third-generation farmer Keith explained, “My grandfather was milking cows in Glengeen at the time, and we started the dairy business from scratch in 1995.

“Robots have completely changed my life. For years, I have spent up to seven hours a day milking cows in a five-point double parlor. It was becoming a relentless and arduous task, and I found the constant diet physically and mentally difficult. I also lacked quality family time, simple things like enjoying an evening meal with my wife and kids.

Keith and Amy first witnessed labor-saving robotic technology when they visited a Lely Open House, hosted by the Rafferty family at Poyntzpass.

“Over the past five or six years, we have considered upgrading our facilities. We looked at a new unit and living room on a pristine site, but were limited by the layout of the farmhouse and the fact that the yard is divided by the country road, ”added Keith, who is attending the farm by his father John.

“It made practical and financial sense to modernize our existing hangars. Minimal construction work was required to facilitate the two A5 robots. The whole project was managed by the Lely Center Eglish team. From the start, they produced preliminary and then detailed plans for the project.

“Lely Center Eglish is dedicated to every step of the way, from supervising and liaising with the building contractor, to commissioning and starting the robots. They even offer regular on-farm software training and support.

Construction at Glengeen Farm began in November 2020 and the entire renovation was completed with minimal expense. “It was a simple operation, and I was able to milk in the milking parlor until the robots were commissioned on March 9. The cows adapted to the new diet in a matter of weeks and the entire facility renewed my approach to milking cows. I’m still in the field, but I can run the herd and the business more effectively. I also have more free time to enjoy family life and social activities like swimming and rugby.

Keith admits to being skeptical of going the robotic route. “We had a lot of questions and doubted our ability to embrace modern technology. We were also concerned that our cows were not good enough. Lely’s salesperson, Dean Cashel, walked us through the process, answered our questions, and gave us the opportunity to visit family farms with similar dairy businesses.

Keith added, “Robots do exactly what they’re supposed to do! We were able to maximize the herd’s potential and were surprised to see the health and welfare benefits for the cows. We have cows up to the tenth lactation in the system and we have an average of 3.1 milkings per day.

“Since the switch to robotic milking, the best heifers give an extra eight liters per day. Our best cows produce over 43 liters per day, and many people have planned lactations of over 9,000 liters with a peak fat of 4.6 percent.

The increase in milk yields at Glengeen Farm has been attributed to better management and improved feed efficiency. “In the milking parlor, we gave between 0.45 and 0.5 kg of flour for every kg of milk produced, but we managed to reduce it to 0.38 kg.

“The cows are raised in a single batch and fed an RTM ration of silage, mix and straw. The increase in production was achieved by managing the cows individually, depending on yield and stage of lactation. In the milking parlor everything was fed at a flat rate, but now we can adjust the feeding levels accordingly.

Keith continued, “The concentrates are fed into the robot. The 20 percent protein dairy nut is capped at 12 kg per head, but we are currently averaging around 8 kg per head per day. We recently installed a second meal tray, and the plan is to work with our nutritionist to “fine tune” the diet even further.

“Lely T4C computer software is user-friendly for farmers and a wealth of herd management data is available free of charge. I am able to generate health reports that highlight a drop in yield, changes in temperature, mastitis, rumination and heat detection.

“There is less room for human error, and when I’m away from the farm I can keep up to date with what’s going on through Lely’s In-Herd app. Our daughters Sophia, nine, and Nicole, seven, are also embracing the new technology and taking a keen interest in the business.

The herd’s Calving Index is 383 days, and 94 percent of the herd is back to calving within 100 days. Keith is impressed with the design of the Lely Astronaut A5, as well as the high level of expertise and service provided by Lely Center Eglish.

“Overall our experience has been excellent. Lely certainly has the edge when it comes to technology and customers.

after sales service. The number-

ber of Lely robots in Northern Ireland is a testament to the high level of service provided by local engineers.

About Robert Wright

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