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Robots and biotechnology: The Waterford dairy farmer using innovative approaches to improve animal health



Mark Drohan milks 140 Montbeliarde cows at Clonae Power, Co Waterford. The herd, which is milked the year round, produced an average of 470kg of milk solids in 2019. Two milking robots were installed on the farm in 2015.

According to Mark, this was one of the best decisions he ever made.

“The robots give me an insight into important aspects of cow health and the all-important challenge of keeping the cows healthy throughout their lactation,” he explains.

“They provide real time information on a wide range of cow management and milk quality-related issues.

“Two of the most significant features of the robots, in this regard, are the milk temperature and conductivity data that are produced on each cow as they are being milked.

“As a result, I have been able to identify problem cell count cows at an early stage,” Mark continues.

“Having all this production-related information is one thing: knowing how to make best use of is something else altogether.”

According to Mark, he is always willing to look at new management options for the herd. Significantly, he is also committed to lowering the level of antibiotic usage within the business.

“I found out about the AHV company and its product range from previous features that I read on the internet some months ago,” Mark explains.

“It then turned out that company consultant, George Sherlock, called in with a neighbour of mine earlier this year, following which it was suggested that he should visit me. George explained to me in detail how the products work and what results I would expect to see after the treatment. It sounded very different to how antibiotics work but I was intrigued to find out. On the back of that I committed to using the products.

“That was back in March. I have been using the AHV Extra Tablet on cows with high cell counts ever since. With the very odd exception, all the animals have responded well to the products with cell counts coming down and staying down. Some cows take longer than others, it just depends on the size of the problem in the udder.

“On the very odd occasion when a cow would put curds out in the milk and is presenting with a hard quarter, I would give her a combination of the AHV Extra Tablet and the AHV Aspi drench, which acts as a very effective anti-inflammatory and painkiller for the animal.

“I do not have a mastitis or cell count problem as I can act quickly on the cows that are showing the first signs of an issue from the robot data. By treating the high cell count cows with the AHV Extra Tablet, I have less mastitis cases. For me, it is critically important to keep on top of these matters, so it does not become a major problem in the future.

“Moving forward, I don’t want to use antibiotics on the herd. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become a major factor on most dairy farms globally and the problem is growing. The AHV range is providing me with a real option in this regard when it comes to dealing with infections. And, of course, there is absolutely no milk withdrawal and no tainting of milk. It means a lot to me when every drop of milk can go to the tank.”

George Sherlock was a recent visitor to the Drohan farm.

“We at AHV have the biotechnology to overcome animal health-related challenges our sector has been facing for years now,” adds George. “By implementing a new and very effective strategy through the new science of Quorum Sensing, we are able to support sustainable ways of animal health care.

“As this is new and innovative to the industry, farmers like Mark need to be educated on how the products work and the expected visual results that will follow. For instance, we are cleansing out the udder tissue and by this you could see a lot of discharge coming out of the udder. This is totally different to traditional methods.

“We are putting specialised people on the road to help advise and assist the farmers through this transition process,” George continues.

“It takes time for farmers to build up their confidence when using the AHV products, but once they see the results for themselves, then they understand what we are doing.

“As the company grows, so does our product range and expertise. We can assist dairy farmers with most animal health challenges that they face on the farm, from when the calf is born, right through to the end of the lactating cow’s life.”

For more information, contact AHV on the AHV website