The wet weather didn’t deter over 200 farmers and industry representatives from attending the Irish Grassland Association summer dairy tour to Laois on Tuesday.

Host farmers Bruce Thompson and Roy and Trevor Cobbe presented the background to their farms, current performance and future plans.

For the walk on Ballyfin farmer Bruce Thompson’s farm, the key points were generating enough winter fodder for the cows and stocking the farm appropriately.

Bruce was milking over 300 cows but cut back to 270 cows this year in light of fodder shortages last spring and lower growth rates.

He plans to go back to 300 cows when the farm is generating enough winter feed and summer grass.

People management

Bruce also demonstrated his approach to managing people, with one full-time employee and numerous part-time employees he uses an app called TimeTree to generate a roster.

He also uses an app called Trello to plan and prioritise the workload.

He says that everyone working on the farm has access to the apps so they can see in advance what days they're working and what jobs need to be done.

Bruce Thompson explaining the technology he uses on the farm.

On the Cobbe farm, father and son team Roy and Trevor spoke about how beneficial the farm partnership has been to them.

The pair are milking 120 high EBI cows with excellent performance on dry land near Portarlington. Last year the herd delivered 540kg of milk solids per cow from over 1.1t of meal per cow.

One of the main topics at this walk was about milking facilities. The farm has gone from 40 cows 12 years ago to 120 cows today and, over that time, money has been put into cubicle sheds, slurry storage and calf housing.

A general view of the crowd at the Irish Grassland Association summer dairy tour.

Milking facilities have improved; the original four unit herringbone has been increased to six units and has been doubled-up so there are 12 milking points but milking is still taking 2.5 hours in the morning with two people.


Teagasc’s Patrick Gowing outlined example costings of a new 20 unit herringbone parlour and compared it to two milking robots.

The full costs of the robots was coming in at €360,000 excluding VAT while the full cost of a new 20-unit parlour on a greenfield site was coming in at €327,000 excluding VAT.

On an online vote at the walk, the majority (73%) of those in attendance suggested the milking parlour would be a better option for the Cobbes.