The dairy farm at UCD’s Lyons Estate has undergone major changes, in recent years there has been approximately €2m spent on upgrading the farms dairy facilities.
There has been a substantial investment in cow housing, handling facilities and there has also been a 40 unit Dairymaster parlour built on site on the UCD research farm in Newcastle, Co. Kildare.
The improvement in facilities has been matched by a further increase in the herd. The dairy herd at Lyons has almost doubled to 200 cows and has moved away from the ‘traditional’ 100 cow Lyons herd.
But, despite this expansion the aim of the farm remains clear, which is to research sthe economics, nutrition, milk quality and environment impacts of dairy production.
One of the major investments on the UCD farm has been the installation of a 40 unit Dairymaster parlour, the parlour is fitted with automatic cluster removers and a flush wash system.
The expensive piece of equipment is also fitted with automatic draughting gates and a feed to yield system.
However, much of the cost of this machine was offset as Dairymaster are partners with UCD in this expansion project.
To call the parlour state of the art is an understatement, and according to UCD’s Dr Karina Pierce the specification of the parlour is way ahead of normal farm units due to its research requirements.
The UCD dairy herd has almost doubled over the last number of years, but how did UCD select the correct animals?
According to Dr Finbar Mulligan, Lecturer in the School of Veterinary Science, there was strict criteria put in place to find the correct animals for this expansion.
For the expansion to be successful, he said, it had to focus on genetic criteria and high health animals.
To find the correct animals, which suited future research projects, the records of over 80,000 animals were analysed, from these only 46 animals were classified as suitable and entered the UCD set up of 2015.
Interestingly, out of all the animals looked at, over 70% failed the health check for Johnes or other infectious diseases.
The expanded herd will include a demonstration herd which aims to illustrate how farmers may increase milk volume production when they do not have any additional land to bring into the system, according to Dr Karina Pierce.
According to Dr Pierce, the research aims to show how cows with high EBI indexes for both milk production and fertility will cope on diets with both a high concentrate and grass input.
Grass will still remain the largest part of the diet, she said, but the concentrate proportion of the diet can reach highs of 8kg/day in early lactation, but this falls as the year progresses.
To deal with this massive demand for grass, UCD’s Dr Bridget Lynch highlighted the current grass production on farm.
In 2015, the farm grew 12.05t (DM) of grass per hectare which has increased on the two previous years, said Dr Lynch.
This grass production was achieved using a relatively low amount of Nitrogen with an annual application of 150kg/ha.