Swatragh cows travel 200 miles for starring robot roles

Swatragh dairy farmer Barry O'Loughlin, centre, is supplying 40 cows for Lely's live robotic milking demonstration at the National Ploughing Championships in County Laois. He discusses plans for the trip with David Dunlop, Chestnutt Animal Feeds, and Jim Irwin, Lely Center Eglish. Picture: Julie Hazelton

Swatragh dairy farmer Barry O'Loughlin, centre, is supplying 40 cows for Lely's live robotic milking demonstration at the National Ploughing Championships in County Laois. He discusses plans for the trip with David Dunlop, Chestnutt Animal Feeds, and Jim Irwin, Lely Center Eglish. Picture: Julie Hazelton

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A HERD of dairy cows from Swatragh have travelled almost 200 miles for a starring role at the National Ploughing Championships in county Laois

They intrepid Fresians owned by Robert and Barry O’Loughlin, who run a 140-cow commercial dairy herd, will demonstrate a robotic milking machine.

Five years ago the father and son team installed two Lely Astronaut A3 milking robots, and say they would not go back to conventional milking machines.

The farmers accepted the challenge of taking their cows to the ploughing championships - the most prestigious agricultural event in Ireland.

“I was up for the challenge when Lely approached me about supplying cows for the live milking demonstration,” said Barry.

“The Lely Astronaut milking robots have fitted into our system very well, and we certainly wouldn’t go back to conventional milking.

Jim Irwin, director of Lely Centre Eglish, who has been involved in planning the exhibition explained: ”Lely is the world leader in robotic milking equipment, and with farming evolving into a new era which is more reliant on technology, we felt that the time was right to showcase the Lely Astronaut milking robot.

“The Championships is the country’s premier farming exhibition so it’s the ideal venue for the company’s first-ever live milking demonstration in Ireland.

The state-of the art Lely robots are designed to enhance a cows natural behaviour, and a ‘free range’ approach to milking leads to a herd of happy and contented cows.

Remarkably, the robot identifies each cow individually, and all management data is stored in the Lely T4C computer programme which is presented to the farmer in a dashboard-style display.

The Ploughing Championships are being held this week.