The business plan for this dynamic dairy farm is very clear: Build up cow numbers by 10%; increase milk yields by 1,000L/cow per lactation, continue to boost milk solids; and reduce somatic cell count (SCC) levels, while enhancing cow fertility and improving general cow health.
All very measurable and therein lies success.
These goals are a big enough challenge for any milk producer, however for Listowel dairy farmer Ciaran Carey, there is also the additional goal of securing full Holstein pedigree status over the next three years.
“I want to milk good cows and to manage them in a way that allows me to achieve high levels of performance without being pushed to the limit.”
For Ciaran this means making best use of grazed grass, feeding cows well and ensuring that the herd is managed in ways that allows all of its members to express their production potential to the fullest.
He firmly believes that a combination of strategic breeding and a feeding approach that puts the cow first will get him a long way down the road in terms of meeting his objectives.
This year will see Ciaran calve down 100 cows. Calving is well underway and will continue through until the end of April.
“Last year I used sexed semen across the herd for the first time. It was the best decision I ever made. There are already 30 replacement heifers on the ground this year. I used a selection of the best black and white bulls available, so the genetic potential of this year’s calves is more than significant.
“Going down the sexed semen route gives me the heifers that I need while also allowing me to get best value from a sweeper bull.
“Yes sexed straws are expensive. But, at the end of the day, they more than pay for themselves.”
When it comes to feeding his cows, Ciaran operates to a very simple principle at his dairy farm.
“There are a lot of top-quality cows in the herd. So it makes sense to offer them the best quality ration that is available.”
It was the application of this logic that saw him change to the Kerry Agribusiness ‘Bloom Autolac Gold’ range at the beginning of June last. It was a decision that delivered a sustained beneficial impact.
Milk volumes increased across the herd by 68,000L, year on year, with butterfat increasing by 0.15% and protein by 0.04%.
“The volume increase was worth an extra €22,000,” said Ciaran.
But this is far from the end of the story. The additional butterfat produced delivered an extra €44.63 per cow: the equivalent protein figure was €16.93.
But Ciaran also views the significance of feeding a quality concentrate to his cows from another perspective.
“I won’t drop feeding rates as soon as grass growth rates start to take off as I believe that taking the approach of dropping feeding rates can lead to a lot of early embryo deaths.
“Too often in the past I had cows confirmed to be in-calf come the middle of May, only to find that they were empty again come the end of June.
“I wasn’t going to take that risk last year, given that I had used a lot of expensive sexed straws on the cows.
“Thankfully, the problem of embryo reabsorption did not arise in 2020 and I attribute the change to the Autolac feed range as being key in making sure this did not happen.”
Bloom Gold Autolac
Bloom Gold Autolac is a top of the range dairy ration. Formulated for improved palatability, it encourages intake by incorporating high-quality cereals and readily digestible sources of fibre.
He has learned from his Kerry Agribusiness sales liaison manager, Niall Walsh, that “a key feature of the ration is the inclusion of Kerry’s Total Replacement Mineral Pack”.
This delivers all the essential trace elements including Sel-Plex, an organic form of selenium, and bioplex zinc, manganese and copper from Alltech required by lactating cows in organic form, so as to ensure full bio-availability and immune function support.
Kerry Agribusiness is the first and only mill in the Republic of Ireland to offer Total Replacement Minerals.
Autolac is available in a wide range of protein levels to best match cows’ requirements throughout the grazing season.
Drop in cell counts
Commenting, specifically on the impact of the Total Replacement Mineral Pack, Ciaran confirmed that cell counts dropped significantly, across the herd, last year.
“Cell Counts dropped by 22,000 in 2020. But this only kicked-in after switching to the Total Replacement Minerals.
“Cow health also improved significantly during the latter stages of last year’s grazing season. I had never seen the cows in better condition at housing.”
Ciaran has also confirmed that the 2021 calving season has gone well up to this point.
“The cows are milking really well. They have been out in the paddocks daily since the beginning of March. The high yielding group are averaging 40L per day with the lower yielders averaging 35L.”
Ciaran will again be feeding the Autolac range throughout 2021. Cows are identified as high and low yielders on Ciaran’s feeding system and concentrate is allocated accordingly.
“It all comes back to a very simple principle. I have a selection of very good cows in the herd and it makes sense to offer the best quality ration that is available.”
The Autolac range is Kerry Agribusiness’ flagship dairy concentrate. It is formulated specifically to support high feeding rates for optimal performance.
This robust diet incorporates high levels of quality cereals and readily digestible sources of fibre such as maize, barley and soya hulls to maximise milk volume and solids while maintaining body condition.
Its high energy (UFL) content also boosts milk solids and prevents negative energy balance in early lactation.
For more information on the Autolac as part of Bloom Feeds range, unsurpassed for quality with proven results, please contact your local Kerry Agribusiness sales liaison manager, or call Kerry Agribusiness Mill at Farranfore on: (066) 976 4466.
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