Orbit Concrete Rotary
"So one person is able to milk a lot of cows, on their own, in a short space of time."
Port Laois farmer Bruce Thompson is getting used to hosting dairy owners from around Ireland, keen to take a look at his Orbit Concrete Rotary milking platform.
Thompson has been using his Waikato Milking Systems 40-bail rotary, built in New Zealand, for about 18 months.
And it’s not only lived up to expectations but has also become a bit of a drawcard, attracting other dairy farmers investigating its advantages.
“I would say we’d have someone come on the property, a potential customer, once a fortnight.
“They’re people who don’t have a rotary and they want to see what the flow is like, how the cows come in and out of the platform.
“They also want to know about the throughput, the construction costs and the big question seems to be how the system can be serviced.”
Thompson said he signed on with Waikato Milking Systems because it was a company that understood grass-based milk production.
“That’s the system they run in New Zealand and that’s the type of system we are running here.”
He said interest in rotary platforms is on the rise in Ireland, following the end of milking quotas in the country in 2015.
Rotary parlour technology is likely to be a talking point at the Irish Ploughing Championships, Screggen, in September.
The Waikato Milking Systems team will be there to talk up the advantages of switching over to rotary machines to milk larger herds.
“Rotary milking machines are getting a lot of pace at the moment because farmers have increased their herd sizes and the availability of labour is low,” Thompson said.
“In a family operation like ours, there are plenty of other tasks to do outside of milking, like rearing calves and heifers.
“You need to be able to milk your cows quickly and efficiently, that’s where the rotary comes in.”
Thompson increased his herd size from 55, to 200 and is expected to go up to 230 cows next year.
“We were using a Herringbone when we had 55 cows but in 2017 decided to go with a rotary because our herd was increasing.
Thompson was able to tailor the setup of his rotary to make sure it didn’t have any over-the-top “bells and whistles”.
“We didn’t want to over-use technology, or to have it reliant on a computer that could break down and stop milking.”
But he did find use for Waikato Milking Systems technology options which made life easier for the operator and the animals in the parlour.
It included the SmartSPRAY to ensure the health of the cows’ teats; SmartWASH, an automated wash system for the milking machine; SmartECRs, electronic cup removers to save time in the parlour and BailGates to help manage the animals on the platform.
“Waikato Milking Systems was one of just a few that provided a rotary wash gland, which means the machine could rotate and wash down at the same time.
“It meant we were able to use the rotary as a handling device for insemination or vaccination, at the end of milking.”
Thompson said the major advantage of the rotary was its ability to milk cows with just one operator.
“So one person is able to milk a lot of cows, on their own, in a short space of time. Animals are very easy to handle in the rotary.”
Thompson said when the rotary was commissioned in February 2018, it only took about three milking sessions for the cows to become familiar with the platform.
“After three milking sessions they were fine, the animals like going on the platform.”
Installation was during the winter of 2017-18 and the Waikato Milking Systems installation team had to negotiate a few challenges. “We went through snow, floods and a storm all at historic levels but we still managed to get it completed in the New Year, to start in first week of February. So it was a very efficient process.”