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Robotic Milking with an Off-farm job. Feasible?

  • 26-05-2023 1:24pm
    Registered Users Posts: 1,025 ✭✭✭

    As per the title. We're milking around 65-70 cows and have another hundred head in a dairy-beef enterprise.

    The aul fella is getting close to retirement and I work off-farm, albeit 4 days WFH - so over the next year or so I'll have to decide what I'm at regarding the enterprise at home. At the minute, I see my options as:

    (a) Remain working full-time, either rent out the land (approx 90 Ha, mixed quality) or remain farming with some drystock

    (b) Drop down to part-time work (may not be possible), remain milking. Risk divorce.

    (c) Leave the off-farm job. Go into dairying full time. We probably have enough of a milking block to sustain a 100 cow herd.

    (d) Remain working full time. Look at setting up a robot through TAMS

    Only really considering (d) because of the grant available - I know well that there would be plenty of labour needed regardless, but would it be feasible?

    It'd be a pity to give up the cows, but it's hard to give up a guaranteed wage at the end of the month.

    Post edited by onrail on


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,505 ✭✭✭jaymla627

    The layout of your farm and how well it lends itself to a fairly trouble-free set-up not needing you their dealing with issues re the robot and fetching cows etc is what you need to figure out, chap that used to shove up the silage here with his loader for wagon contractor went dairying with a robot this year and gave up the silage, heard yesterday he's struggling with it re the grazing etc and having to gather up cows etc , he had a serious little earner at the silage and pulling the pin on it would make you wonder just how labour-free the robots really are

  • Registered Users Posts: 782 ✭✭✭Pinsnbushings

    I was in your shoes a few years ago smaller farm. We went OAD milking it's another option, done well is say it's more profitable than robots if you haven't much investment to make. New thing coming is 10 milkings in 7 days less of a drop in production with that. Could you say get a reliable milker for the 3 evening milkings and you and the father cover the mornings..

    Only another option is all

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,425 ✭✭✭148multi

    There's a man in longford at it, if no one here can advise, I'll get his No. For you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,025 ✭✭✭onrail

    Fair play. Purely time-wise how did you find juggling OAD with the job? Are you still at it?

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,021 ✭✭✭cosatron

    how about dropping down to 50 cows with replacement hiefers, get rid of the dry stock and keep the job going. Maybe rent out some land aswell. Is work flexible enough to work from home during spring with cows calving.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 782 ✭✭✭Pinsnbushings

    Well sure with bringing them in and cleaning the yards you'd be talking 1.45 hours every evening.. morning milking at peak is probably 10-15 percent still going, father still going strong though so I can't claim I'm doing all the milking before work

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,131 ✭✭✭blackdog1

    I'd wait untill they announce the dairy exit scheme untill you make a decision. That plus rent of land might make up your mind which way you're heading.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,611 ✭✭✭Mooooo

    Tbh at that acreage, a long term lease would prob give the best return and improve quality of life.

    After that making everything from calving to breeding as streamlined as possible and a good relationship with contractors would be the main go of it.

    A 20 unit parlour with good cowflow would have the cows milked in less than an hour and be cheaper than a robot. Getting someone local and giving regular hours / milkings then if possible.

    One issue I've heard from lads with one robot is if there is an issue everything is stopped whereas those with 2 or more would at least have other machines working on the backlog

  • Registered Users Posts: 782 ✭✭✭Pinsnbushings

    I would have thought that over 200 acres of owned land could still be considered viable surely..or do you think we are at a point that is part time now?

  • Registered Users Posts: 496 ✭✭agriman27

    I was told by a member on here in a different thread that 40ha of decent land could easily make a profit of 60-70k a year and have plenty of time for an off farm income, because with drystock there is basically minimal work attached….

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,914 ✭✭✭cute geoge

    No bother and tis was the same simpleton talking about dairy farmers able to produce milk for 18 cents/litre

  • Registered Users Posts: 36 international xl

    Last year my father said come this year he was retiring so had one year to figure out what to do had the option of going part time at work or taking a year out i only milk 65 cows and silage land is rented in the end i hire a guy for fulltime turn out to be one of my better ideas no longer in a rush home and the place for the first time in years is a little tidier and the fencing is working as intended no matter what automation is put in you cannot match having a human eye around the place when one is off farm working. Now i,m looking for a part timer for when my full time staff goes on holiday or in case gets taken ill. Thats my experience and if one can stay in business you just never know what opportunity could turn up and technology .

  • Registered Users Posts: 990 ✭✭✭einn32

    I'd you've a good neighbour around they could probably deal with any robot issues. Most of the alarms you turn off from day 1 and even the ones that still come through can be sorted on the phone. The issue is if the phone can't sort them then someone has to go fox the issue. 70 cows would only have one robot so it needs to be running 22 hours a day at least. You would spend your evenings setting up fences I guess in summer. I didn't find robots to reduce my hours but they changed the way I worked.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,025 ✭✭✭onrail

    Ah ya, the long term lease seems the only logical answer, but it doesn't sit well with me. Maybe because it's too obvious.

    The father wouldn't be a good lad to sit still, so we'll still need a few head to keep him half occupied.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,025 ✭✭✭onrail

    I'd say I could make a fist of going full time, but with a mortgage and family I'd find it hard to give up the guaranteed off-farm income. Not big money or anything, but I know what I get every month and generally it'll increase by a few percent every year.

    Something to be said about the social side of off farm work too.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,611 ✭✭✭Mooooo

    It would be if commiting to the jump, but not without risks. More debt for facilities and increasing cow numbers etc. Full-time job and fair chunk of tax free income from a lease would be hard to beat from a simplicity point of view assuming one is happy in the job and parents are OK with the decision.

    If full-time working and milking cows facilities will still need to be improved to streamline things and a reliable relief system and contractors worked out as well

    While parents can be there as a backup it should always be planned without them having to do anything imo as someday they won't or can't be there.

    Being on your own is difficult and so plans should be put in place and budgeted for outside labour or contractors or both

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,611 ✭✭✭Mooooo

    Are you happy you went with them? Have you them in long? Was the farm suitable for them already or did you have to do a bit of extra work to fit the system, as in road crossing etc?

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭straight

    I was in a similar position to yourself 6 years ago. I chose to give up the job and go full time dairy farming. There are pros and cons to both decisions. But I chose farming over the job. After almost 20 years between college and work a change was no harm.

    I wouldn't let money cloud my decision as you will make enough out of farming to match your job although you will have to work about double the hours imo. Nicer work than stuck inside at a desk too.

    I miss the down time from the job as it's very hard to switch off or to get away from the farm. But it's great to be building your own business and improving and building up your own assets. It's very satisfying work in general although it can be relentless at times.

    I do school pick ups and drop offs, homework and I often have them out and about with me so we are making plenty memories together. When I was working, the children used to be in bed when I left the house until I came home and you wouldn't see them for a few days. Spending a few hours with them on a Sunday doesn't really cut it.

    So what I'm saying is that the farming is hard work which I don't mind, money is ok, miss the job sometimes and the craic with the lads but would hardly go back. Great for family time, wife complains about not going away on bank holidays or some of that other rubbish but sure they have to complain about something. 😉

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,720 ✭✭✭Castlekeeper

    That's it in a nutshell.

    The robots would be my last option of all the grand ones presented above. Rule no. 1 in business, never destroy capital.

    Another option is if you found a share milker and to lease them the dairy side if the place as a going concern and keep some cattle with your father for a while.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,720 ✭✭✭Castlekeeper

    And another option is to go organic OAD dairying, dropping some of the beef. You should maintain a good income, really reduce the workload, and improve your farm and farming experience.

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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 3,675 Mod ✭✭✭✭Siamsa Sessions

    Are you interested in cows and farming yourself? e.g. do you want to develop the farm, breed better cows, reduce inputs by improving the soil, upgrade facilities like fencing and the parlour, etc.

    Or do you want to keep the cows just to keep the tradition going? Nothing wrong with that but it’s a different motivator to being interested yourself.

    If you have a genuine interest, could you take a “career break” from the off-farm job for 2-3 years? Get the other-half involved somehow (any little job at all to give her some responsibility and ownership), and let the 2 of ye tear into it.

    If it doesn’t work out, then so be it. It’ll have cost you in terms of finance and 2-3 years of your life but there’d be no life-changing commitment given.

    Trading as Sullivan’s Farm on YouTube

  • Registered Users Posts: 990 ✭✭✭einn32

    Sorry I just used to work on a farm with two robots. I still call in to the farm. They're in a a good few years now (2016) and the man is very happy with them. He works off farm full time hence the need for a worker. He has struggled to replace me fully and was under huge pressure at calving time this year as he had no one there during the week. The farm is all in one block so it suited very well.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,025 ✭✭✭onrail

    Resurrecting this thread just to let off some steam, because like everything life throws you the odd curveball to wreck the plans.

    I'd decided to wait till the father was on the pension before taking a career break and spend a year seeing how I felt about full time farming, or what would work best part time.

    Then 3 months ago, the father took a turn. All grand thank god, but he's only really fit for tractor work now and a few other bits, leaving myself with the milking and heavy lifting which usually means a half 5 start, get back to bring the kids to childcare at 8, sit down to work 9-5, milk 5-7, then finish up back to help the kids to bed for 7.

    Luckily I've a bit of family help for one or two days a week to let me into the office, but it's all busy and only going to get worse now in the spring.

    So suppose I'll get this year calved and see what will be done next year but the more I looked into it, TAMS won't really be an option for a robot. Zero planning for the newer sheds and slurry/soiled water storage is tight enough that I'd rather not have an inspection.

    I've a mortgage to worry about, so the logical side of me says to get out of the cows, but I'd hate to cut off the option to go full time farming in a year or two.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,440 ✭✭✭cjpm

    You need to hire a fella part time asap to take the pressure off you. If you can find someone suitable

  • Registered Users Posts: 478 ✭✭anthony500_1

    Definitely try find some suitable labour. If you could get someone to start with say 3 days between Monday to Friday and pay them fairly, it would take an enormous amount of pressure off you. Then if your happy with them, give them 5 days and you look after the weekend. There is no point ending up burnt out, stressed out and possibly have the likes of a stroke or heart attack from all the above and being in no position to do anything. There will be cows and land after us all. Think the likes of frs do farm relief they could be a good starting point to make a call too.

  • Registered Users Posts: 21,171 ✭✭✭✭Water John

    Find one or two regular people to do weekday milkings for the time being. I know that's easier said than done. Transition year students might be interested in a few bob. See lot of young people male and female working at the local mart on Saturday.