The rise to 300 cows in Co. Tipperary: How this farmer manages his larger herd

Farming in Ardcroney, just outside Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Matt Cleary runs a herd of approximately 300 cows under a spring-calving system.

Since the unshackling of milk quotas in 2015, the farm has entered expansion mode. Now, a large herd of predominately black and white cows takes centre stage on the farm and graze across approximately 220ac.

Telling his story, Matt said: “Since the abolishment of quotas, things have driven on and we’re up near the 300 mark, but we’re not planning to go any further; the drought last summer thought us a lesson or two.”

With the increasing herd comes an increasing workload. Matt and two other employees work full-time on the farm.

However, to reduce labour and improve accuracy at pressure points during the busy times of the year, a new drafting system was installed.

Unhappy with the accuracy of a previous system, the Saber Draft arrived on the farm last year.

“As the numbers got bigger, drafting was a problem – AIing cows and picking cows out for drying off. We had a previous drafter, but it wasn’t that accurate; we weren’t that happy with it.

“We put in the Saber Draft during the back end of last year – before we started to dry off – and it has worked a dream.

“Before that, we had drafters and maybe you would have 80-90% accuracy. That’s OK when you are drying off, but when you are trying to AI cows and you come out and there are a few cows missing, it’s not good enough,” Matt explained.

Calving is beginning to wind down on the farm and attention will turn to breeding in the coming months. Although the Saber unit is in its first year, Matt is confident of the system for the breeding season.

“AI hasn’t started on the farm yet, but for drying off it was a dream. Other years, if we were trying to pull out 20-30 cows for drying off, we’d be pulling gates around the yard; it was pure hassle.”

“We’re in the middle of drawing up plans for a new set-up and we bought the drafter just because we couldn’t go through another year of trying to pick out cows,” he added.

The Saber Draft is located at the end of a race where a footbath is located. Accuracy was a must have for Matt, as the unit is not visible from the milking parlour.

“It’s at the end of a race where the cows come out of the parlour; it had to be accurate because we can’t see what is happening inside from the pit.”

The Saber Draft system can also be controlled via a mobile phone or independent remote control – something which Matt finds very beneficial.

“It’s very handy to use it off the phone. You can put in the cow’s number and once she goes out after milking, she’s drafted out into the yard.

“There’s also a handheld device that if you are running the cows through the crush footbathing or condition scoring, just press the button and it will take them left or right; it’s another handy feature of it.

“We’ve used it a good bit for picking out heifers and batching; we used the manual remote where we didn’t have cow number written down,” the Tipperary-based farmer added.

Three-way system

Matt opted to go for a three-way drafting system, stating: “We decided on a three-way drafter because we are planning on a new set-up.

“We are only using two at the moment, but down the line when we have new yards and pens, we will be able to draft three ways.

“It is very handy when you have a lame cow or a cow that you are drafting everyday. You can have her in one pen and your AI cows in another pen; it should be very handy.

“The cows got used to it very quick. We put it at the end of a race after the footbath – which we change on a weekly basis – and there was no problem with it,” he concluded.

More information

For more information, call Chris Murphy at: 087-9678131 for advice on how to optimise cow flow. Click here for more information