Farmer/owner: Peter Hamill
Farm location: Near Craigavon, County Antrim
Farm name: Aghagallon
Herd: Pedigree Holsteins
Milking system: Herringbone Parlours
Date of installation: Jan 2015
Peter Hamill milks 105 pedigree Holsteins at Aghagallon near Craigavon in County Antrim. The herd has historically averaged 8,500 litres per lactation, but recent improvements to the farm’s in-parlour feeding system and the introduction of activity monitoring pedometers have seen yields rise to 10,000 litres.
“We’ve struggled in recent years to spot cows in heat and as a result the herd’s Calving Index (CI) had risen to 430+ days,” Peter says. “We had too many stale cows having a negative impact on the herd’s average yield and knew we had to do something to improve productivity, especially in light of falling milk prices.”
In order to improve the herd’s productivity, Peter installed a standalone Auto-ID system to enable him to feed the herd more accurately via the farm’s existing in-parlour feeders.
“The new system identifies each cow from her unique ear tag and automatically dispenses a pre-determined amount of meal according to her individual milk records,” Peter explains. “Each cow’s meal allowance increases from a basic build-up ration to an in-calf diet once she has returned a positive PD test.”
The Auto ID system saves valuable parlour time with Peter able to concentrate on preparing udders and attaching clusters instead of having to manually key in each cow’s feed ration. It has also contributed to an improvement in the herd’s fertility status, working well with the new pedometers: “Cows are in much better condition to conceive and we are serving a lot more cows than previously,” Peter adds.
“We’re seeing more heats as a result of the pedometers and have successfully reduced the herd’s calving index to 390 days. We’ve swung away from natural servings in favour of using AI and have increased yields to 10,000 litres per lactation.
“We’re ultimately hoping to reach 11,000 litres and in time will install milk meters so that we can feed to yield using up-to-the-minute data instead of having to rely on the monthly milk records.”