The O’Shea family are well known and regarded in the Piltown area of Kilkenny, with the sixth generation of the family now running the thriving O’Shea Farms vegetable business.

Aside from the large-scale vegetable growing enterprise, the farm also carries a 400-strong herd of spring calving dairy cows. The latest addition to the dairy facilities is a 60-point DeLaval rotary parlour with associated drafting and handling facilities. The O’Shea family recently welcomed the Irish Farm Building Association to view the new development, as part of the association’s annual conference.

The whole unit sits underneath a 14-bay long shed, with cows able to enter the shed from either side. The drafting area encompasses seven bays in length and is just over half the width of the shed (15m), pinching some space from the drafting area that sits on the far side of the central dividing wall.

The cows are drafted pre and post-milking through the DeLaval DS3.

As with nearly all rotary parlours, an automatic backing gate has been installed which sits behind two stub walls at the bottom of the shed.

Additional bars have been installed at the top of the entrance gates in the drafting area to prevent cows sticking their heads through, while locking barriers have been fixed along the open side of the shed which allow them to be locked shut when not used for buffer feeding. These are measures to ensure that cows do not become pinched by the backing gate.

The backing gate also contains a built in safety feature that stops the gate and sounds an alarm (to move cows forward) when it hits off a cow, before moving forward again 30 seconds after.

Pre-milking drafting and operator alerts

George Moore, the local rep for DeLaval was on hand to talk through the setup of the parlour. All cows pass through a DeLaval DSG 3 auto drafter pre-milking. Cows requiring treatment, slow milkers, fresh calved cows or those for AI can be drafted to a holding pen beside the rotary while all other cows are milked.

Rubber matting is in place both on the platform and in the areas for coming off/on.

Once all ‘normal’ cows have been milked, those requiring attention can then be milked and treated as necessary. The bridge area (where cows come on to the parlour) and the deck area of the rotary are both matted for comfort and grip.

The parlour is a DeLaval E100 60 H machine rotary platform. Once cows step on to the rotary, their ear tag is read. Cows coming on to the platform are identified to the milker in the cups-on area on a 24’’ IDD touch screen display.

All 60 cows on the platform can be viewed on the screen, with a speaker alerting the milker to any issues such as cups kicked off by a cow or yields that are lower than normal.

Milkers can select that a cow can be retained in the parlour and checked on the next rotation. The cups on area has a moving floor that can be adjusted according to the milker’s height.

A 90,000-litre overground tower houses the soiled water used in the flood wash system.

A platform area, supplied by O’Donovan Engineering, is located on the opposite side of the parlour to the cups area. It allows for breeding or tail painting of cows, with a temporary stop cord in place. Cows are then treated with a robotic teat sprayer before stepping off the rotary.

High-spec unit

The parlour is just about as high spec as possible. It has been fitted with 2x2 electronic pulsators and ACRs (automatic cluster removers), with 60-point MM27 milk meters and samplers installed which include blood and conductivity detection for early detection of mastitis.

The internal section of the rotary is accessed via an underpass, something that DeLaval recommends to farmers installing a rotary parlour.

The parlour has been kitted out with Evanza clusters, which are a lightweight cluster with a Cartage liner, designed to milk out cows well in addition to having a high retention rate on the udder.

Two augers come in to the mangers on the parlour, allowing two different types of feed to be fed to individual cows, such as low protein or high protein feeds depending on BCS or yield. Feed to yield is in place, linked up with the DeLpro controlled feed system. All milk is piped through stainless steel lines and unions. There is a stainless-steel double milk filter system inside the dairy.

A 30,000 litre external milk silo is also fitted. This is linked to an app showing the volume of milk in the silo.

Drafting area

Cows coming off the rotary are then drafted again post-milking. Lame cows can be treated on farm, with a rollover paring crate on site under the cover of the shed.

Two crushes run parallel down the right-hand side of the handling area, with various holding pens running along the left. The majority of AI is completed in these crushes as opposed to on the platform due to the AI technician arriving some time after milking.

The crushes are well designed with small access gates behind each cow that allow the AI technician/vet access to the rear of each cow while the cow behind is locked away.

A central raised concrete platform gives access to both crushes for TB testing etc. Water and power outlets are also in place should they be required.

Flood wash system

With such a large area under one roof, cleaning it manually after each milking would be an arduous task. Instead, the O’Sheas installed a flood wash system that cleans the holding yard and the post-milking drafting area down in to the soiled water tank at the bottom of the shed.

The system reuses the water from the parlour’s wash system, which is collected and stored in an overground silo, with roughly 10,000 litres used to wash the parlour.

To top up this water supply, a pump has been installed in the soiled water tank under the agitation points, with a wall and piping used to prevent the heaviest of the solid material reaching the pump.

The water is then pumped to the overground silo at night using night rate electricity. The silo has a capacity of 90,000 litres and the flood wash system is programmed to come on automatically after each milking, releasing half of the silo’s water at a time.

Between the collecting area being roofed and the recycling of water, the creation of soiled water is minimised on farm.

TJ O’Shea was vocal in how happy the family are with the parlour and the associated works with Tom Delahunty Plant Hire, Cummins Electrical and O’Donovan Engineering being some of the key players in the build along with DeLaval.

The parlour has been in commission since September 2023, with TJ noting that training of cows and operators at this time of the year worked extremely well.

(From left) The cows are drafted pre and post-milking through the DeLaval DS3; lame cows can be drafted for paring in the turnover crate; a 90,000 litre overground tower houses the soiled water used in the flood wash system; rubber matting is in place both on the platform and in the areas for coming off/on.