MAJOR decisions were made on the Heslip family farm a year ago as to how their dairy enterprise was to be taken forward as quotas disappeared.
Gary Heslip, who farms with his younger brother Andrew and father Lawrence near Ballygawley, Co Tyrone explained.
“To grow the business one option was three times a day milking through the existing parlour, but this had major drawbacks as regards lifestyle and labour costs.
“Instead we modernised our dairy unit around three DeLaval robotic milkers and out of parlour feeding stations fitted with four Hanskamp L’port pneumatic closing gates.”
In the eight months since the 210 strong herd was switched to this new milking and feeding regime pleasing progress has been made as regards cow performance, labour requirements and animal welfare. With three Moy Park broiler chicken houses their other main enterprise the family enjoys having a more flexible working routine in the dairy unit.
Our old, out of parlour feeders stood a lot of abuse from cows and bullying really was a major problem,” Gary recalled. “Older, dominant cows were keeping quieter milkers, especially heifers, away from the feeders. Milkers that really needed the right amount of compound feed were not getting it. Production was being lost and there was a welfare issue.
“Thankfully, at a reasonable cost, we opted to install these Hanskamp L’port closing gates from the Netherlands. Through one of Hanskamp’s UK agents, Albert J Jones of Ederney, we saw the L’port gate in use on another farm and made the right decision to install four.”
Now the cows are very content; all get their allotted share of compound feed and as Andrew Heslip points out the L’port gate suits any make of feeding station.
“Being Dutch it is made to last, simple to install and user friendly with height and length easily adjusted to suit the building.”
The Heslips did look at another closing gate, which was mechanically operated, but the pneumatic L’port closing gate ensures cows are only closed in if they are actually due to get more feed.
Almost every week other producers visit the Heslip farm to see the Hanskamp L’port gates in action and invariably remark on how quietly the equipment operates. Above all they note that this is a very content herd of mainly Holsteins with some Friesian crosses.