Aidan and Anne Power and their daughter Orla are dairy farming outside Templederry in Co Tipperary.
In the past, it had been Aidan and Anne working full-time on farm, with help always on hand when needed from their five daughters.
Like many during the COVID-19 pandemic, Orla was spending a lot of time at home on the farm and found her love for farming growing.
Orla then made the decision to return home full-time and enrolled in Pallaskenry Agricultural college in Co Limerick, where she is due to start her second year in September.
Delighted to have Orla returning home and more rented ground coming on to the platform, Aidan and Anne began to discuss the future of the farm business. Milking 135 cows in 2021, the decision was made to expand the herd to 180 cows over the coming years, with a focus on producing milk solids from a grass-based system.
The herd consists of a predominantly Holstein Friesian base, with a small number of Jersey cross cows. The plan is to continue rearing all calves to stores on the out-blocks, while also using these blocks for zero grazing in the shoulders of the year.
Up to this point, the Powers had been milking 120 to 125 cows through two Lely robots. The first of these robots went in 2012 and the second a couple of years later when milk quotas were being abolished.
Aidan was keen to point out that the robotic system worked very well for them over the years.
“The information around yield, SCC, butter fat percentage and milk protein percentage available on each cow was excellent, along with the flexibility the system provided,” said Aidan. The long narrow layout of the farm was the biggest issue they would face if they chose to expand further with the robotic system. The additional infrastructure required for the third robot was going to be substantial and it was for this reason they choose to look at returning to the pit in a herringbone parlour.
“If I could give any advice to someone looking at doing a parlour, it would be to visit plenty of farms, listen to everyone and take from that what suits you,” said Aidan.
This is exactly what the Powers did. They not only visited a number of parlours, but milked in them to get the feel for the parlour and its different systems. By doing this, they had a clear plan in their head as to what exactly they wanted to achieve in their new parlour, which was:
With a plan to go to 180 cows to maximise production on the grazing platform, the Powers decided to go for a 20-unit parlour. Having milked in different-sized parlours, they felt this was the most efficient size that was big enough for two people to milk in but also manageable for one person on their own.
Unlike a third robot, the herringbone also provides the option to expand further, should an opportunity arise down the line.
Deciding on where to put the new parlour was next on the agenda and this was based around cow flow. The majority of the time, the cows come from behind the parlour and straight in the passageway into the collecting yard. On exiting the parlour, there is 15ft in front of the pit where cows can pass one another, again improving cow flow and allowing for a swift exit from the parlour.
Cows then exit to the front right and will pass through a drafting unit, which is currently being installed. They can then be directed back out to the fields or into the cubicle house. The existing dairy is in front of the new parlour, which meant minimal adjustments were required.
The process was kicked off by applying for planning permission and submitting a grant application, all of which took around four months to complete.
Going into partnership allowed them to maximise on the available grants and Orla being a young trained farmer meant she got a 60% grant on her proportion.
Building began on 8 January 2021, digging out the soiled water tank in the collecting yard, and the first cow was milked in the parlour on 8 April 2021.
All the while, cows were calving and being milked through the robots, which were sold privately after.
After-service was a priority when choosing what machine to go with, and the Powers can’t speak highly enough about the service they received from Padraig Brennan and his team at Firpark dairy services.
“Going with Dairymaster is like dealing with a one stop shop and means we are dealing with the same service man for everything. Padraig and his team are always at the end of the phone,” said Orla.
Having initially planned on going with a basic low-cost parlour, the power of information seen with the robots encouraged them to go with a high-spec machine in the end.
The 20-unit Dairymaster parlour is kitted out with sequential bailing, feed to yield, swift flow command units, automatic cluster removers, a variable speed milk pump, variable-speed vacuum pump, dump line, air gates and auto-wash.
In the future they have the option to look into other add-ons which include the moomonitor+, SCC sensors and cluster flush.
The sequential bailing with a straight rump rail has worked well in restricting cow movement during milking, which can often be an issue in herds like the Powers’, where there is a mix of cow type between Holstein Friesian type and cross-breed cows.
Gleeson steel and engineering in Gortnahoe erected the shed, which cost €25,500 excluding VAT. The machine cost €140,000 excluding VAT. The concrete work was done by John Burke and Vincent Lawlor and came in at around €10,000 excluding VAT, not including the collecting yard and soiled water tank.
Electrical works cost in the region of €2,200 excluding VAT, keeping in mind very little work had to be done in the existing dairy.
It doesn’t take long to notice that the Powers take a lot of pride in what they do. The parlour is kept in excellent condition and hygiene is extremely important to them when producing high-quality milk.
Channels running along the base of the feed troughs and across the exit at the front of the parlour take waste water back to the soiled water tank in the collecting yard.
The sump in the pit is also piped back to the soiled water tank. Drop-down hoses in the pit and a wash-down hose make cleaning down during and after milking very easy. After each milking, the rump rails are wiped clean with a wet cloth, while the auto wash runs through its cycle.
The Powers all agree it is important to create a nice working environment that you look forward to milking in. Two clear corrugated roof lights per span allows plenty of natural light in, with LED lighting for the darker mornings and evenings, all topped off by the very clever art work at the front wall of the parlour painted by Aidan and Anne’s daughter Elaine.