Farmer/owner: Gordon Mitchell and family
Farm location: Banbridge, County Down
Farm name: Dromore
Herd: Holstein Friesian
Milking system: Fullwood 12:24 herringbone
Date of installation: May 2012
Gordon Mitchell milks a herd of 80 dairy cows at his farm near Banbridge in County Down. Three years ago the farm’s 40-year-old 6:12 parlour was replaced by a Fullwood 12:24 herringbone system that is equipped with auto-ID ear tags, heat detecting pedometers and AugerMaster in-parlour feeders.
“We take great pride in focusing on all aspects of the herd’s welfare and performance, from soil monitoring and cubicle hygiene to heat detection and the efficient use of feed,” Gordon explains.
“The new parlour lets us milk the entire herd in an hour and has improved the way we produce milk by letting us manage each cow individually.”
The parlour’s auto-ID and heat detection systems have allowed computerised record keeping to replace Gordon’s traditional paper-based system. “Historically we’ve kept all our calving, heat detection and insemination records on hand-written charts,” he explains. “With the introduction of Fullwood’s auto-ID tags, pedometers and Crystal herd management software, all those details are now captured and stored electronically. It’s a more efficient way of keeping our records up to date and a more accurate method of managing the herd.”
Over the last two years Gordon has seen his herd’s calving index reduce from 398 days to 367 days. “The improvements are the result of a number of factors including better heat detection and more accurate feeding,” he explains. “It took a while to get used to the data produced by the pedometers, but we now trust what the computer is telling us and are able to see more silent heats and inseminate more cows at the optimum moment.”
The auto-ID system enables Gordon to feed the herd more accurately by using customised feed curves to control the amount of meal delivered to each cow. “We use a selection of feed curves to enable us to feed each individual animal to yield,” Gordon adds. “The in-parlour feeders and out-of-parlour feeders are linked via the parlour’s computer to ensure that each cow gets the right amount of feed spread over 24 hours.
“The new technologies not only make it easier to keep a closer eye on each cow’s performance, but also save time and money, making each litre of milk cheaper to produce.”