ROBOTS MARK A NEW CHAPTER
FOR POTTERSWALLS JERSEY HERD
Seaforde farm to host Lely Open Day on Friday 22nd November
By Julie Hazelton
Lely Center Eglish continues its series of open days with a visit to the Fleming Family’s Potterswalls Herd, near Seaforde on Friday 22nd November.
Founded in 1972 the highly acclaimed Potterswalls Jersey prefix is recognised throughout the UK and further afield. Three times winner of the Jersey Cattle Society’s bi-annual herd competition, the herd won its first Balmoral Show interbreed award in 1987, and has secured the Royal Ulster show’s interbreed championship six times in the last ten years.
The 120-cow herd has recently embarked on a new chapter with the introduction of two Lely Astronaut A5 milking robots. Producing milk for Lakeland Dairies, the herd is currently averaging 6,700 litres at 5.7% butterfat and 3.9% protein.
“The project was two years in the planning stages, explained Ashley Fleming who is an internationally renowned dairy cattle judge, and Northern Ireland manager for Cogent UK.
“I work full-time, and the original plan was to increase cow numbers with the intention of eldest son Lindsay coming home to farm when he graduated from Greenmount College.”
Lindsay Fleming was the college’s first-ever recipient of the Young Apprentice of the Year, a Michelin-sponsored award supported by the Department of Employment and Learning in 2013.
Ashley continued: “Lindsay shares my passion for dairy cows, and over the years has gained valuable experience through his involvement with Jersey and Holstein cattle. He is regularly away clipping and showing cows at major dairy shows in the UK and around the world. It’s a great opportunity for him, and another career independent of the farm.”
“We had a basic eight point swing over parlour in need of modernisation. Lindsay was instrumental in creating a business plan to sustain the future of the family business.”
A new calf rearing facility was built six years ago, and Lindsay visited numerous local farms and units in Holland looking at the benefits of automation.
Ashley added: “We had originally looked at green-field site, but there were several stumbling blocks. In the end it made more economic sense to renovate and extend our existing buildings.”
The Astronaut A5 robots have been operating successfully on the farm since February, and there has been a significant increase in milk production.
Ashley welcomes the lifestyle changes provided by the robotic technololgy. “We still have to attend to our routine chores on a daily basis, but we aren’t clock-watching and tied to milking times. There is more flexibility, and its takes the pressure off especially if I am away on business, or Lindsay is off clipping.”
Linda Fleming added:”Jerseys are nosey and inquisitive, and they adapted easily into the new system. They don’t produce huge volumes of milk, and aren’t under as much pressure. The cows have free access to the robots and seem to be more content and relaxed.”
The herd has adjusted its calving pattern to have a consistent number of cows milking. The diet is formulated by United Feeds for maintenance plus 20 litres, and includes TMR comprising of grass silage, wholecrop wheat and a specially formulated blend. The robots can feed up to two concentrate rations which are determined on an individual basis depending on yield and stage of lactation.
“Cows are performing well, with the highest yielders producing up to 40 litres per day,” added Ashley. “I’ve noticed that fresh calved cows rise in milk very quickly, and are holding their lactation for longer. Yields are up between six to ten litres per cow per day.”
Three generations of the Fleming family are involved on the farm. They were impressed with Lely’s unrivalled reputation for robotic technology which spans more than twenty five years. “The team at Lely Center Eglish was a big asset to our project from the outset,” said Ashley.
“We got great advice and guidance on shed design and layout, and our system is unique in that we have managed to implement a straw pen beside the robots for OAP and VIP cows, which also acts as a training area for fresh calved heifers. “
The Lely Open Day on 22nd November is also set to welcome Dan Carroll, dairy programme manager for Cogent in the USA. He will outline the advances in the company’s sexing technology, genomics, and the tools used in selecting black and white sires for the bull stud.
Dr Keith Agnew from United Feeds will discuss dairy cow nutrition, and outline ways to utilise forages.
- Everyone is welcome. The farm is situated at 38 Drumanaghan Road, Seaforde, County Down, BT30 2JP. Tours will start every 20 mins between 10.45am and 2.00pm. Visitors are asked to adhere to biosecurity measures. To facilitate catering arrangements please register online via the Lely Center Eglish facebook page, via twitter or telephone the office 0044 28 37548228.