Jim Kavanagh milks 250 cows close to Arklow, Co. Wicklow. The herd is divided equally into autumn and spring-calving groups and both sets of cows are managed in a way that maximises milk output from grazed grass and silage.

“The spring calvers start calving down in early January,” Jim explained.

“As a result, both groups are coming into peak yield during the months of January and February.

“And all of this is very positive. However, the one downside is that milk proteins start to slip back during this period.

“Traditionally, I have found it hard to get milk proteins above 3.2% during the first two months of the year. Whereas I always believed that keeping milk proteins up at around 3.4% was attainable while the cows were at peak milk.”

Jim has always strived to get the cows out into the paddocks as early in the year as possible. 2022 has been no different in this regard. His spring calvers are already grazing the driest paddocks on the farm.

“All the cows are kept in at night at this time of the year,” Jim continued.

“They have access to silage in the feeding passage with concentrates fed on a feed-to-yield basis in the milking parlour.”

Milk proteins

In the past, Jim included rolled barley with the silage as a possible means of lifting milk proteins during the first two months of the year, but to no avail. He also tried brewers’ grain but still saw no change.

At the beginning of last year, Jim was approached by Quinns of Baltinglass to feed the company’s new Elite 19% Dairy Pellet to the cows during that critically important period of January and February. The results were outstanding.

“It was an absolute revelation,” Jim confirmed.

“For the first time in my almost 40 years of dairy farming, I managed to get milk proteins up to around 3.4% protein.

“Those two additional protein percentage points make all the difference when it comes to determining the profitability of the business at this time of the year.”

Jim has been so impressed with Elite 19% that it is now his only choice of concentrate in early lactation

“This is a feasible approach given the availability of feed-to-yield software in the milking parlour,” Jim said.

Elite 19%

So, what makes Elite 19% so unique? Quinns’ technical advisor Ciarán Murphy was a recent visitor to the Kavanagh farm.

“The inclusion of Optigen in Elite 19% has allowed soya to be replaced within the pellet at a rate of 7:1,” Ciarán explained.

“In other words, 700g of soya can be removed for every 100g of Optigen included. This then frees up space to allow the inclusion of energy-rich sources, such as locally produced grain, within the overall diet fed to cows.    

“Diets that are more energy-dense will help drive milk protein levels.”

Elite 19% was launched at the end of 2020 and is available in pellets. However, the technical team at Quinns of Baltinglass will work out appropriate in-parlour feeding rates for those farmers offering their cows a basal total mixed ration (TMR) as well.

“Elite 19% is a bespoke dairy pellet for cows in early lactation,” Ciarán continued.

“We also offer a range of complimentary rations for cows in mid-lactation and beyond with access to high levels of grazed grass.”

Meanwhile, Jim Kavanagh has had a full year’s experience of the new Pellet.

“It has genuinely worked for me,” Jim explained. “It solved a specific problem that had been a genuine issue on the farm for many years. The figures speak for themselves.”

Last year, the Kavanagh herd averaged 6,700L, delivering 550kg of solids/cow.

The last five years have seen Jim using Fleckvieh bulls exclusively on the cows. It is an approach to breeding that has worked well for him.

“Almost one-third of the cows are now cross-breeds. I had traditionally milked Friesians on the farm,” he said.

“Approximately 60 cross-breeds are now coming into the milking group on an annual basis. A traditional Friesian heifer would have given me 6,000Lin her first lactation. Where the cross-breeds are concerned, this figure has risen to 7,000L plus.

“Longevity is also a key determinant of dairy profitability. My cows are now staying on the farm for an average of five lactations.

“There is also a very strong beef demand for Fleckvieh-cross bull calves.”

Get in touch with the Quinns team to see if Elite 19% could be an option for your farm.

For more information please contact Quinns of Baltinglass on: 059 648 1266; or email: [email protected].