When’s an Irish Cow not an Irish Cow?

When It’s Being Milked at the Ploughing Championships.

When are Irish cows not Irish Cows? Well the answer would appear to be when they are milked at the Irish Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska in Laois. Glanbia refused the milk because it wasn’t Irish.

And before you say pull the other one, it’s not because it was robots that were doing the milking.

No, it was because the herd was from the North.

One of the main attractions at Ratheniska this week is a full-scale Lely robotic milking parlour complete with a herd of 40 cows. The state of the art equipment means cows are milked when they choose freeing up invaluable time for dairy farmers allowing them concentrate on other farm duties according to Lely sales manager Tomas Cooney. It’s fascinating stuff.

But in a case of silly Nordie cows, the question arose of what to do with the milk they produced? Glanbia refused to take it away from the exhibit because the cows were from the North. Not Irish milk they said. We can’t touch it they said.

Tyrone based producer Strathroy Dairy answered the Cows’ SOS and sent a tanker all the way from Omagh to collect the milk. They now have to do so for the duration of the Ploughing event.

Visitors to the exhibit have been enthralled as the cows are each being milked up to three times per day. The cows are milked in what the company calls a “free choice” system, where they choose when to be milked.

“Cows are more relaxed as they are allowed to express their natural behaviour and have the freedom of choice to be milked at any time of the day or night, mimicking the behaviour of a cow suckling a calf,” explains Mr Cooney.

The autumn-calving herd of cows have been on site since last Friday to allow them to settle into their new surroundings and get into a normal milking routine. This is the first live robotic milking demonstration to be held at a trade exhibition in Ireland. Unfortunately, no cows were available for comment.

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