Despite weak prices and a lack of the government support available in some other parts of the UK, such as Scotland, farmers in Northern Ireland continue to invest in the dairy sector. Former dairy farmer Rex Wilson started 2015 by investing in a new parlour to go back into milk production on the family farm at Coagh, Co Tyrone in Northern Ireland. A parlour with an innovative Dutch feeding system that keeps cows content thus reducing noise levels and speeding up milking. In recent years Rex had concentrated on contract rearing dairy heifers and running two intensive livestock enterprises. A broiler breeder unit for Moy Park and, on his out farm, a pig unit under contract to JMW Farms.
“Working with firms that operate UK wide and have a positive, let’s do it, attitude is very encouraging. However, looking ahead I could see that our two sons wanted to farm and like working with cows. Clearly the way forward was having a diary herd again as our third enterprise,” Rex explained. Cattle accommodation with room for a new parlour was already in place though the space available did restrict the length of the parlour. A Pearson 28 X 28 parlour was installed with a 10ft wide pit to give a bright, airy and clutter free working environment. Though parlour length was restricted width and height were no problem. The parlour, supplied and installed by Pearson-NI Ltd, comes with fully automated ID, heat detection and dump line plus a variable speed milk pump to save energy. Other features include enclosed stainless steel cabinets and a sink in the pit with hot and cold running water.
To complete the parlour Rex and sons selected PipeFeeder, an innovative feeding system from Dutch manufacturer Hanskamp. The PipeFeeder is linked to cow recognition and ensures cows have access to feed gradually as they are milked. As Rex confirms this speeds up milk release so saves time spent in the parlour and dramatically reduces noise levels during milking! “Having their concentrates gradually released from they step into the parlour until they finish milking keeps cows calm and content. “There is no head thumping of feeders, the PipeFeeder is almost soundless and dust is no problem as the motor is in-built with feed only falling a short distance into the trough. “Built to typical Dutch high standards we see the PipeFeeder as a major step forward in cow management. As farmers we all known cows are content when there is feed in front of them so this in parlour feeding system from Hanskamp makes sound sense. “Especially as we hand wash udders, rather than just spray them, before clusters go on. A routine that helps keep mastitis at bay as we build up from our initial 30 Dutch heifers to possibly 150 cows.” Eldest son James, having completed a one year course at Greenmount Agricultural College, is now home on the family farm though still attending college one day a week. Younger son Jack remains in full time education, but is much involved with the new dairy herd and plans to join the family business. Though weak winter milk prices are a problem Rex and sons view the return to dairying as an attractive medium to longterm investment. Suppliers to farmer owned Lakeland Dairies the Wilsons are calving their Ravlex Pedigree Herd year round to even out cash flow. According to Andrew Brodison of Pearson-NI the PipeFeeder system chosen by the Wilsons is proving popular. “ Well priced, well designed and well build PipeFeeder keeps cows content, speeds milk release and makes milking a much more pleasant experience for cows and owners alike!”