The start of the new grazing season sees Ardfert dairy farmer, John Galvin, poised to build on the significant improvements in herd performance achieved in 2020.
He attributes this ‘good news’ story to a combination of better genetics coming to the fore within the herd and enhanced feeding practices.
“The intervening years have seen an almost doubling of the cow herd, from 36 to 63, and a significant investment in the farm’s infrastructure, with scope to up the numbers to 65 cows, but that’s my limit,” John explained.
A new cubicle house has been built on the farm and other investments have been made within the business over recent years.
”The objective for the business is to improve milk quality, while at the same time, maintaining output volumes.”
The 32-year-old young farmer is committed to a future in milk production. His ability and commitment to the business are well recognised to the extent that he has been selected as a participant in the Kerry Agribusiness / Teagasc Joint Programme. The joint programme is focused on “Farming for a New Decade” with sustainability and the adoption of measures to reduce carbon footprint, improve water quality and biodiversity, among many others, at its core.
John continued: “This year’s calving season got underway on February 1 and will continue through until the end of March.
“The cows have been out grazing by day since the last week of February. Paddocks were closed off last autumn at the end of November, at which stage all the cows were in excellent condition.”
Boosting butterfat and protein levels
Looking ahead, John wants to really boost butterfat and protein levels.
“I started using AI sires with very high percentages for fat and protein back in 2019 with the aim of boosting milk solids. The heifers produced from these matings will be coming into the milking group next spring,” he said.
“Improved nutrition will also play a critical role in improving milk quality levels, last year the herd averaged 6,300L or 480kg of milk solids per cow, but I know there is scope to improve this figure considerably,” John confirmed.
A significant decision taken by John in 2020 was that of switching to the Bloom Autolac Gold feed range, manufactured by Kerry Agribusiness, having spoken to his sales liaison manager, Aidan Behan.
John explained: “I have a good herd of cows and I want to feed them well. I work closely with my Kerry rep, Aidan Behan and my Teagasc dairy advisor Nora Donavan, particularly when it comes to the nutritional requirements of the herd.
They have always urged me to feed a top quality concentrate, made from the best available raw materials.
“On that basis, the Bloom Gold Autolac ration was the obvious feed option to select. The decision to go with the Autolac nuts was made at the beginning of last year and I haven’t looked back since. I moved to Kerry from another feed supplier in 2019.”
Production in 2020
A full year’s production figures are available, which confirm the impact made by the Autolac ration on the Galvin herd. What’s more, the aggregate impact of the Kerry feed range over the past two years is now showing a very clear and discernible trend.
The production figures confirm that protein and butterfat percentages have both increased by 0.17%, respectively in absolute terms, over the past two years.
These are more than significant increases, which are helping to boost John’s annual income from milk on a sustainable basis.
“This is real money,” said John.
“Improving milk solids is a ‘win-win’ scenario for my business and the good news is that the Autolac feed range is helping to deliver this for me.”
Bloom Gold Autolac is Kerry’s top-of-the-range concentrate formulated for improved palatability and encourages intake, available in a wide range of protein levels to best match cows’ requirements throughout the grazing season.
A key feature of the Autolac is the inclusion of Kerry’s Total Replacement Mineral Pack. Kerry Agribusiness is the first and only mill in the Republic of Ireland to offer total replacement minerals.
Increased fertility levels
John Galvin believes that the Autolac has played a role to improve cow health with body condition scores across the herd at the end of last year’s grazing season being excellent. This is also having a very beneficial impact on cow performance right now as this calving season has gone very well to date.
“Prior to turnout, the cows were getting 5kg/day of Autolac nuts, fed through the parlour. I will tweak the feeding rate once the cows go out to grass full time.”
John has also noted significant improvements from a fertility perspective. “Last year the six-week conception rate figure came in at 86%. I reckon it will exceed 90% in 2021,” he said.
John concluded: “Improving quality, in all its aspects, will be the key driver for the business in 2021. The scope to improve milk solids is significant. I regard 2020 as, very much, a transition year for the farm.
”The potential to produce greater volumes of milk is limited by the fact that the farm is approaching its maximum stocking density, however, the opportunity to improve milk solids is there to be grasped.”
The Autolac range is Kerry Agribusiness’ flagship dairy concentrate. It is formulated specifically to support high feeding rates for optimal performance.
For more information on Autolac as part of the Bloom Feeds range, please contact your local Kerry Agribusiness Sales Liaison Manager or call Kerry Agribusiness Feed Mill on (066) 976 4466.