2014-06-23   facebook twitter rss

Monaghan Farmer Expands Milk Production

Ivan Dawson and his brother Stephen farm in partnership near Carrickmacross in Co. Monaghan. They have been increasing their high yielding spring calving pedigree herd of Holstein Friesian cows over the years.

The herd reached 100 cows in 2004 and had 200 by 2008. The herd is now at 280 cows and all expansion has come from home bred replacements.

L2R are Donegal man Dessie Dunlevy from ABS Ireland, Ivan and Louise Dawson

L2R are Donegal man Dessie Dunlevy from ABS Ireland, Ivan and Louise Dawson

They supply Lakeland Dairies so milk quota has not been problem over the years although Ivan thinks it will be an issue for 2015 due to the excellent grass growth this year and increased dairy cow numbers in the region. Their partnership is based on a grassland system with supplementary feeding using their two farms to grow lots of grass and make quality silage.

Surplus heifers are sold as replacements to customers in the Republic and leading herds in Northern Ireland. Average yield for their pedigree Holstein Friesian cows is around 8000Kgs of milk pa (around 1750 gals) and cows receive just under two tonnes of concentrates fed in the parlour and as a TMR diet using a Keenan mixer wagon.

The diet includes grass and maize silage, straw and a home mix ration (barley, distillers, citrus pulp, soya and a mineral vitamin supplement). Ivan and Stephen believe that higher yields are more profitable as overhead costs are spread over significantly higher milk deliveries.

They are on a limited land base and restricted by the N directive. So if they were at say 1,200 gallons (5,500 litres) which is typical for many spring calving herds they would need an extra 125 cows to supply the same quota. So more slurry to store and in any case they could not accumulate more slurry due to the Nitrates directive and associated restrictions. They would also have had to make a much bigger investment on farm buildings and of course they would require extra labour.

They have been customers of Dessie Dunlevy and ABS Ireland since 1999. Dessie who is also a well-known judge with the Irish Holstein Friesian Association hails from Donegal and is based in Drogheda. The average number of lactations is six and their oldest cow (Grassvale Socine Cordelia) who retired recently had 12 lactations and produced a massive 97 tonnes of milk at 3.4% protein and 3.85% butterfat. She was classified VG and received an IHFA Gold award for having yielded 3,000kgs of protein in her life­time

According to Ivan “we have stuck with ABS for the last 15 years as their bulls have consistently delivered quality progeny.” We also find that Dessie and their technical personnel are very knowledgeable and we have the opportunity along with other dairy farmers to visit progeny herds in Britain and elsewhere on a regular basis.

Over the years they have used a lot of AI straws from Shottle and Tennyson. “Shottle was a great bull…very consistent, you could use him on any cow.” Says Ivan. In recent years they have used a lot of semen from Larcrest Cancun. “This bull gave us the best calves as a group we ever had. “Other bulls we have been using include Ballycairn Mascol Mars, De-Su Gillespy, Coynes-Farm Dorcy, De-Su History and LeTrionnaire Alt Hamish.

According to Dessie Dunlevy their expansion plans for post quota are hampered by land availability and the Nitrates Directive, so their aim is to get more milk per cow. Going forward they plan to increase yields to around 9,000 kgs (around 2000gals).

The bulls selected are used to increase milk, by building the type of cow required to fit into their system seamlessly and that will be highly efficient at converting feed into milk. A prime example of this is the bull Larcrest Cancun.

“He will breed a strong functional cow, wide in the chest and rump, travelling on sound feet and legs, with the right type criteria and udder quality to produce large quantities of milk, as backed up by his international daughter proof, while also having high productive life scores. “

According to Ivan their future breeding policy is to look closely at fertility and for a minimum of 300Kgs of milk solids with a positive for milk protein %. “We do not compromise on udders, feet or legs and pay attention to SCC values when available”” says Ivan. We want a minimum of two on overall type and a minimum EBI of €80 for fertility.

The cow in the photo is Grassvale Shottle Jane, a VG 2 year old out of an EX cow by a home bred sire. She is in her second lactation after producing 7536kgs of milk at 3.64% Butterfat, 3.17% protein as a heifer and has an EBI 0f €100.

Lakeland dairies

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