Alan and his wife Rosemary, along with their 4 children call Brockna Dairies home. With forethought and succession-planning in mind, Alan went into Partnership with his son Gordon (25) and daughter Linda Cliffe Hanbidge (31) in 2015. The end of quotas and the introduction of the TAMS young farmers scheme added incentives to form a succession partnership and double herd size from 55 to 110 cows over a two-three-year period.
The Hanbidges run a herd of mostly pedigree Montbeliardes on the sandy granite hills close to the town of Baltinglass in West Wicklow. The Glanbia suppliers operate a winter milk system with spring and autumn calving based on maximising output from grass.
By a stroke of luck, the Hanbidges had high numbers of heifer calves born in 2013 and 2014, allowing cow numbers to be increased organically from 2015 to 2017. The flip side of this was that extra housing and a new parlour were required. A new parlour and dairy was installed – with the help of a TAMS grant – in 2015. Like much of the land in the area, the farmyard is on a sloping hill and so the parlour is split level, with the dairy above the parlour.
The 16 unit Dairymaster machine was installed with a Swiftflo Bailing System. Automatic feeders, a dump line, a wash line and ACRs were included. “I won’t say I didn’t want to milk in the old parlour, but I actually look forward to the job in the new one! We can now milk twice the number of cows in half the time.” said Gordon. Having the wash line alone saves 20 mins per day while the ACRs guarantee consistency of milking and no overmilking, no matter who is in the pit. One other nice touch to this well-finished parlour is the lights set into the clusters from the old parlour.
“We were short on winter accommodation so when TAMS 2 opened again we applied for the grant for a new 7-bay, 79 cubicle house”. The shed was finished in late December 2018 and the Hanbidges installed the EASYFIX Cubicles with the Double Foam inter-locking mattresses. “I didn’t know how they would go, but I genuinely couldn’t be happier with the EASYFIX cubicles” explains Alan. He is delighted with the hygiene and very impressed with the level of cow-comfort the softer, flexible cubicles provide. “It’s very important in a winter milking herd that the cows have comfort”. “It’s when the cow is lying down that the milk is being made and the EASYFIX cubicles and mattresses mean the cows are lying a lot more than before.” Alan had no problem spending a little extra on the comfort and peace of mind the Easyfix Cubicles gave.
Cubicles were installed with 3’9” spacing and an EASYFIX brisket board. “The space is plenty in them, even for some of the big Monty cows” says Alan. “At the start we had a few heifers inclined to lie sideways in them, so we opted to train them in the old steel cubicles first. With the old cubicles you would often get a couple of cows who would refuse to lie in them but that just doesn’t happen with the EASYFIX ones.” Cow safety was also a factor in the decision to go with EASYFIX after cows had become stuck and injured in the steel cubicles. EASYFIX cow scratchers were also installed on every second cubicle. “You regularly see the cows scratching the crown of their heads so they’re definitely as happy with them as we are” jokes Gordon.
The Hanbidges built the new shed end-to-end with the existing cubicle house, so that now a 14-bay roofed feed passage gives ample feed-space. “We have no problems now with heifers or smaller cows being bullied”. There is lots of space with drys and heifers generally being housed in the old cubicle shed and milkers in the new shed. The slatted shed is once again on a split level with two tanks spanned by 10’6” slats running the length of the new shed.
While a lot of changes have taken place on the Hanbidge farm over the past 4 years, Gordon identified two key areas that made the expansion a success. “We are part of the Kiltegan Dairy discussion group with Teagasc advisor Paul Keogh. Only for it, we wouldn’t be where we are now. It’s a great way to learn and to see what can be done.
Linda, who previously worked as a make-up artist, came home to live on the farm in 2011. She now lives in her grandparents home house with her husband George and two daughters Zoe (3) and Elsie (9 months). “Zoe and Elsie are the 7th generation to live on the farm here” says Linda, “So we saw it as important to be in a good position to gradually take over the reins from Daddy.”
Linda used the four years pre-quota removal to get up to speed on the ins and outs of the farm management and she now acts as an effective financial controller, looking after the buying and selling as well as the breeding and some of the AI. Alan still does much of the day-to-day management as Gordon works part time with Kevin Nolan in Carlow. “I have a bit of flexibility with the job and I am here full-time at the busiest time of the year for calving” says Gordon.
“Alan wasn’t ready in 2015 to retire and we didn’t want him to either” says Linda. As Gordon and Linda will continue in partnership after Alan retires, they saw the succession partnership as a logical step. “It works well, says Linda. We are the kind of family that sits around the kitchen table to disscuss things anyway, so it suited us I suppose. But at the end of the day – Daddy is still the Boss!”
Representatives from EASYFIX, Bank of Ireland, Allen Dairy Services – Dairymater Dealer, Dairypower and the Montbeliarde Society will be available to discuss options for expanding your existing dairy or becoming a new dairy entrant at the Open Day.
The Hanbidge Family are looking forward to welcoming other dairy farmers and new entrants to the Dairy Open Day at Brockna Dairies, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow W91 R6Y5 on Thursday 19th July, 2018 from 12noon to 4.00pm.
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