Farmer/owner: College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE)
Farm location: County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Farm name: Dairy Development Centre, Greenmount Campus
Herd: 180 Holstein Friesian
Milking system: Fullwood 50 degree 32:32 herringbone
Date of installation: June 2013
As a government owned facility, the college farm at Greenmount serves two main purposes: to provide a unique resource for students to ‘learn-by-doing’, and to demonstrate and promote the latest technological advances to farmers within the livestock sector.
The £2.5 million unit doesn’t pretend to be a blueprint for the typical NI dairy farm: the new facility provides an extra wide parlour pit, in-parlour touch-screen displays for on site teaching and meters on all individual water and electricity inputs.
The new parlour – a Fullwood 50-degree 32:32 herringbone design – replaces the old unit’s 20:20 parlour, with extra space at the front of the parlour available for future expansion into a 40:40 setup. The low level milking equipment is installed in an extra wide parlour pit to allow students and teaching staff to work together.
“There can be as many as four students plus a trainer in the pit during each milking,” explains Martin Mulholland, CAFRE’s Senior Dairy Technologist, “so we wanted to make sure the new parlour could accommodate everyone comfortably and allow a good teaching environment. The parlour is equipped with the latest milking equipment and gives our students the unique opportunity to learn the fundamentals of correct milking routines via a direct, hands-on approach.”
“Everything has been designed to maximise cow welfare and to improve the learning experience for our students and farmers,” Jim Fulton, the farm’s assistant manager explains. “The new parlour is considerably larger than the outgoing facility which allows more students to be trained.
“We don’t want the cows to go through too quickly as it limits the amount of time the students have to learn, but the new setup has inevitably reduced milking times. Even with a full contingent of students in the parlour we can still comfortably milk 150 cows in 75 minutes.”
“So far milk yields have increased by 1,300 litres per cow since we moved into the new unit so we must be doing something right.”
The Dairy Development Centre fulfils its role as a research unit in a number of ways: every individual input – from water for the drinking troughs and cluster washers, to electricity for the vacuum pump and housing lights – is measured separately so that running costs can be assessed and the findings passed back to Northern Ireland’s dairy farmers.
“We are actively helping Northern Ireland’s farmers to become more efficient at producing milk and at the same time are educating the next generation of dairy farmers and improving the employment credentials for future farm workers.”