Darran farms at Derrygasson on the outskirts of Emyvale, Co Monaghan, and supplies LacPatrick Dairies. His outstanding performance in all aspects of milk production made him the overall national winner of the prestigious NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards in 2018.

Average yield of the 106 cows milked in 2018 was 6,600l/cow, with protein at 3.45% and fat at 4.25%. The bad spring and summer drought resulted in a substantial lift in meal fed to 1.2t/cow.

Rearing top-quality replacement heifers that meet critical growth targets and reach the required frame and weight at calving at 24 months is a striking feature. Darran regards the performance of calves from birth to weaning as crucial to lifetime performance. That is where Heiferlac plays an important part.


The tailor-made high-protein milk replacer is formulated to achieve maximum performance and fast frame growth in the critical birth to weaning period. When fed at 900g/day in conjunction with ad-lib concentrates, roughage and fresh water, it can deliver a growth rate of 0.9kg/day.

All bull calves and April-born heifer calves are sold at two to three weeks old. Around 40 heifer calves are fed Heiferlac each year on a computerised feeder. Early and adequate colostrum is a golden rule. The calves are fed colostrum and cow’s milk for the first seven days and then moved on to the feeder and fed Heiferlac.

It is mixed at 125g per litre and calves are programmed to consume eight litres/day at peak. This amounts to a feeding level of 1kg/day of Heiferlac. Concentrates, water and straw are available at all times.

They are weaned after 70 days on the feeder, at which time they are eating between 1.5kg and 2kg of concentrate/day. They go to grass in mid-April, weather-permitting, and are fed concentrate for a month on grass.


Since moving to Heiferlac three years ago, Darran is delighted with the performance of his calves. “It is an excellent milk replacer and gives great performance,” he said.

He puts jackets on all the calves for the first three to four weeks. “I bought 16 jackets the first year. They made the calves a lot more comfortable and protected them from any draughts. I now have jackets for all the heifer calves.”


He is calving 140 cows and heifers this year. Calving started in early February and 70% had calved by 1 March. Thirty April-calvers will be sold, leaving him with 110 to be milked.

“I could milk more, but I’ve decided for lifestyle reasons to stay at around 110,” he said.

His wife Denise works off farm and they have four children, Daithí, Caragh, Micheál and Annie.

Limerick dairy farmer delighted with Volac calf feeder

Padraig Cagney and his son Patrick with Sharon O’Donoghue of Volac. The Cagneys will feed 60 calves on the Volac Urban Alma Pro computerised feeder, which was installed in January in a new custom-built calf house. Calves are fitted with jackets in order to enhance comfort and performance.
Limerick dairy farmer Padraig Cagney is one of the latest to switch to computerised calf feeding. In January, he installed a Volac Urban Alma Pro computerised feeder in a new custom-built calf shed.

“I am delighted with it. It takes a lot of the tedium and labour out of calf feeding. We have no issues with it. Calves get exactly what they are supposed to.

“They are very healthy. We had no scour, no digestive upsets and we have used no antibiotics this year,” said Padraig, summing up his experience after six weeks using the feeder.

Padraig and his wife Anna Marie run a herd of 77 cows at Castlemahon, supplying Kerry. They have four children; Maria, Patrick, Sarah and Ellen.


“With the exception of 15 to 20 of the last-born calves, which are sold at two to three weeks of age, we rear all the rest. The bulls are reared to forward stores at around 18 months and we rear all our own replacement heifers.”

He places big emphasis on giving calves the best possible start and maximising performance up to weaning. The consistency in feeding and the ability of the calf to consume its allowance little and often as if it were sucking the cow were important issues in opting for the Urban Alma Pro feeder.

All calves are given the royal treatment and fed colostrum and cow’s milk in individual pens for the first seven days. They are then moved on to the computerised feeder and fed Triple A Golden Maverick.

Golden Maverick

He has been using Triple A Golden Maverick for the past number of years and is very happy with calf performance. When fed at recommended levels, in conjunction with ad-lib concentrate, straw and water, it can deliver an average growth rate of 0.75kg/day up to weaning.

Padraig intends to feed around 60 calves on the computerised feeder this spring, at two feed stations. Fifty-three of the herd of 77 cows had calved by the first week of March.

They will be weaned after 10 weeks on the feeder. The step weaning process is another key feature of computerised feeding. It encourages concentrate intake and leads to trouble-free weaning, with calves continuing to thrive.

The ability of the feeder to monitor the drinking behaviour of each calf is an aspect that really impresses Padraig Cagney. His son Patrick, who is in fifth class, checks the computer before he goes to school and again in the evening and gives a full report. “He is teaching me the technology,” said Padraig.

Latest advances in technology

The Volac Urban Alma Pro represents the latest advances in computer feeding technology. It features the most up-to-date touchscreen technology, with full control and alarm functions and can be operated through an iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows smartphone, as well as via a laptop or desktop computer.

It enables users to have full access to calf drinking behaviour and calf health, even when not in the shed.

A free calfapp and calfcloud, which enables tracking from mobile devices, is available from Volac. It also features the option of a retractable fully automatic teat-cleaning process that is carried out after each calf drinks.

The Forster Technik Vario Smart computerised feeders are also very popular with Irish farmers.

As with the Urban feeder range, they can feed up to 120 calves at four feed stations and the automatic cleaning function ensures the highest level of hygiene.

Volac was one of the main supporters of the Rearing To Go campaign, aimed at breaking down stigmas and raising awareness around mental health in the agricultural sector. Farmers who donated calves to the campaign received a free bag of Volac Heiferlac. At the auction of calves in Corrin Mart, Fermoy, were (L-R) Sam Sampson, Volac UK; Liam Gannon, Volac calf rearing specialist; and Peter Hynes, one of the organisers of the campaign.

For more information visit www.feedforgrowth.com