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Irish Dairy Farm Tells Expansion Story to Thousands

08 July 2014

Over 800 cows were treated to a surprise when 3,000 visitors swamped Greenhill Dairies to learn about an expanding dairy business.

A Teagasc farm open day was held for dairy producers interested in large herd management on the Browne family farm at Knocknagappagh, Killeagh in East Cork.

In total seven people work full time on this busy farm and others are employed on a temporary basis during the calving season. The infrastructure and facilities on this farm are truly first class.

The Browne family migrated from near Skibbereen in West Cork over 70 years ago and moved their herd of cows by train to the railway station nearby in Killeagh.

An audience of 3,000 people came to learn about large scale dairy farming at the Browne's farm

From humble beginnings the family have steadily increased the herd size over the years and are currently milking 820 cows and carrying 300+ replacements.

According to Tom: “14 years ago a 60 point rotary parlour was installed to milk around 300 cows and since then numbers have been gradually increased primarily from home bred replacements.”

This is a spring calving herd and milk is supplied to Dairygold Coop. The most recent breakdown for the herd is as follows: 287 are 1st lactation, 235 are 2nd lactation and 320 are 3rd lactation.

Milk is produced off grass and they make their own pit silage using a Class self-propelled harvester. This year they made 133 hectares of first cut silage and plan to cut another 100 hectares as second silage.

Simon says: “We will also make some third and fourth cut silage depending on grass growth.” They also make some baled silage from surplus grass.

To ensure there are adequate forage supplies irrespective of weather conditions the family also have a substantial acreage of forage maize grown for their stock.

According to Simon they grew 60 hectares of maize last year with similar area planted this year. They use a local contractor Diarmuid Curtin to do this work.

Simon says: “We have a young herd at present and are restricted by quota this year. After 2015 the focus will be on increased milk solids per cow and per ha depending on milk and feed prices.”

Average yield is around 6,000 litres/cow with milk solids at about 440 kgs. At present cows are averaging 23 litres/day at 4.16 per cent Butterfat, 3.46 per cent Protein with a cell count of only 180 SCC.

The herd performance over the last two years has been excellent and details are as follows:

Dairy nuts (14 per cent protein primarily to carry Cal Mag) are fed in the parlour while dry cows and other stock are on a TMR diet using a Keenan Mech-fiber 360 mixer wagon. Michael Browne is responsible for feeding the stock and machinery operations.

The TMR ration is formulated using advice from Liam Leahy of Dairygold Coop, Fergal O’Mahoney their Teagasc adviser and Jerry Crowley from Glenbower Veterinary Group.

Feed ingredients in this cost effective diet includes top quality grass silage, forage maize, (grown within drawing distance) barley, straw, soya, premixes etc. depending on the age and type of stock being fed.

Herd Health is obviously very important on such a large herd and the programme is as follows: Cows are vaccinated to protect against BVD, IBR, Lepto, Rotavirus and Salmonella. The replacement heifers are done for BVD, IBR, Lepto and Salmonella.

Lameness is managed via hoof pairing/ foot bathing. Naturally the calves are wormed and the cows/ heifers are dosed for fluke and worms as recommended by their vet.

Reproductive Management System

Getting cows pregnant is an important part of a dairy farms long term success and profitability so the Browne family has been using only ABS Ireland AI semen for the last two years.

In addition they have also availed of the ABS Reproductive Management System. According to George Tanner their local ABS representative “this takes a systematic approach heat detection, A.I. breeding, synchronization and data management service through professional technicians.

Cahair McAllister the ABS technician is on the farm for six weeks during the main breeding season and does heat detection twice per day so results have been first class.

According to Tom Browne “the bulls we have used during 2014 were Classic (ZLC), McCormick (GJM), Levi (MWL), Angel (KAZ) and Victorious (HSV).In selecting all these sires, EBI, Fertility, Milk and Protein were the most important criteria for us.”

Fergal O'Mahony, Teagasc Adviser, Gerard MacMahon, Teagasc Cork East Regional Advisory Manager with hosts Tom & Simon Browne

The average EBI last year from these bulls was €223, milk €76 and fertility €107.

Ciaran O' Shea, Dairy Product Specialist with ABS Ireland says that “the bull Classic adds strength to cows along with having good volumes of milk and good protein, both Kgs and per cent. He went on to say that McCormick’s “breed easy care cows that mature with each lactation and excel for durability and fertility while producing high solids”.

According to Ciaran “Levi is a popular sire with our customers and is used to increase milk without suffering any losses in daughter fertility or milk solids”.

As regards Angel this a sire used to really boost Fat and Protein per cent along with daughter fertility while also maintaining good volumes of milk.

Victorious was bred by the Hanrahan’s, from Mitchelstown, and is “an outcross sire with moderate milk who will boost butterfat and protein per cent along with Daughter fertility and Durability” so this is an excellent selection of sires which will help Tom and Simon to achieve their breeding objectives.

According to ABS Ireland the herd EBI as of 28 April 2014 was 131, milk at 47 and fertility at 64. For 2nd lactation cows it was at 148, milk at 52 and fertility at 72. So real progress is being made and prospects for the future look good.

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