‘George Goes Dairy Farming’ series 2 continues with episode 3 – this innovative farm-focused series is proudly brought to you by AgriLand Media and AgriNet.
The Co. Wicklow-based farmer, George Beattie, is back in the model county to visit the farm of Seamus Cullen.
George speaks to Seamus about the synchronisation programme he uses on his farm and his use of fresh semen.
The ongoing series of videos, produced by AgriLand Media with the support of AgriNet, has provided unique insights into the management practices adopted by milk producers across the entire gamut of dairy farming business models implemented in Ireland.
All have been widely recognised for their focus on the clear communication of new thinking within the dairy sector and their role in providing ‘peer learning’ opportunities for all Irish dairy farmers. The latest production is a further, invaluable reference point for anyone with an interest in modern milk production systems.
How it started
Speaking on how he started in dairying Seamus said: ”I started dairy farming back in 2000, with 25 cows and 27,000 gallons of quota that was leased from my father.
Gradually bit by bit things happened for us and with a bit of luck, we have gotten to were we are today.
”There was no real big jump; bits of land became available around us and we slowly increased the herd size. When quotas went we increased our output; we already had the stock numbers,” he added.
”The two years previous to quotas going, we went to a once-a-day (OAD) milking programme, just to hold onto stock numbers. That was an experience in itself; it is not for everyone.
”This year we have 376 cows to calved down, from 405 we served last year.”
Speaking on the synchronisation programme Seamus stated: ”We introduced a synchronisation programme onto the farm last year – we served 103 heifers and 87 held based off the scanning results.
”We spoke to other farmers that were already doing it before we tried it and they all said it worked well for them so we said we would give it a go.
Before last year we had upwards of 70 or 80 heifers here and there is a lot of work in selecting the heifers that are bulling and bringing that heifer to be served after milking, with the synchronisation that’s not the case anymore.
”This year they were all served at the same time and after that we let the bulls out with them.”
Seamus had several reasons for choosing to operate a synchronisation programme. He explained: ”There was two main reasons why we introduced a synchronisation programme.
”Firstly, the heifers are the future of the herd and we wanted to get as many as we could in calf to first service. This gives them a better chance of remaining in the herd.
”The second reason is our heifers are being contract reared by another farmer; this year coming will be our third year sending calves out to be reared.
The farm they go to is about 25km away and the land is fragmented so serving the heifers was going to be a bit awkward.
”I would recommend synchronisation to other farmers, but every farm is different and every farmer knows what is best for their farm.
”The one thing I would say is that to ensure you have everything right first; if your farm is lacking in something ensure the cows are getting minerals to correct this.”
Last year 67% of Seamus’ dairy semen usage on cows and heifers was fresh.
“We used fresh semen this year; we have used it for the previous couple of years, it also seems to have worked well going by the scanning results,” he said.
”We would have had bulls selected for each cow, so depending on what was available each day, Clive – Progressive Genetics’ artificial insemination (AI) technician – worked off a set list selected for each cow.”
Progressive Genetics has marked the bulls likely to have fresh semen available, with a fresh sticker in their latest catalogue; view the catalogue justClick here
As cow numbers continued to grow Seamus decided to have his heifers contract reared. Speaking on how he operates his contract rearing agreement: ”We started having our calves contract reared two years ago; Ray Morrisey now rears the heifers for me.
”Ray had gradually got out of beef and now he takes all our young stock.
They leave the farm as calves and come back at around 20 months in October, ready to calf the following spring.
”For anyone thinking of sending your heifers to be reared you need to pick the right person, I think they need an interest in the stock.
”For me when I spoke to Ray I knew he was a good stockman and that gives you the peace of mind.”
The man behind all the calves
Clive Whelan, Progressive Genetics AI technician: ”The synchronisation is a great job; it gets the heifers out of the way and means you won’t be bringing them in and out for a week or two.
”We used fresh semen on about three quarters of the heifers, just with the numbers that were there on the day we could not use it on them all.”
When asked what makes it easy for an AI technician coming to a yard: ”A crush full of cows,” Clive replied jokingly.
If everything is right and handy, what I like about coming to Seamus’ yard is I have a choice of bulls.
”Because Seamus is using fresh semen a bull might not jump one day or something could go wrong, so having two options to choose from is good.”
Beef on Dairy
Clive spoke about using beef straws within the dairy herd: ”There was a time when Belgian Blue (BB) took over, but over the last ten years or so dairy farmers were not using BB straws.
”In the last few years its definitely coming back, farmers are using BB straws on cows that they do not want replacements from, so over the last two or three years I have seen a lot more being used.”
Catch up on all the episodes of series 2 here:
Catch up on all the episodes of series 1 here:
Part 1: ‘George goes dairy farming’: ‘We’ll go another row and see how we go; the land is there’
Part 2: ‘George goes dairy farming’: Using 50% Belgian Blue genetics in Co. Meath
Part 3: ‘George goes dairy farming’: Attention turns to breeding in Co. Meath and Co. Wexford
Part 4: ‘George goes dairy farming’: The right number of cows for the system in Co. Wexford
Part 5: ‘George goes dairy farming’: Calving down 200 cows in just 4 weeks in Co. Wexford
Part 6: ‘George goes dairy farming’: Tagging calves and a date with a spring-calving Meath farmer
Part 7: ‘George goes dairy farming’: Which system works best and why?
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Additionally, for more information on Progressive Genetics, just Click here