Having moved to 100% spring-calving this year, this autumn will be the first time in years that all cows on the Goodman farm outside Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, will be at the same stage of lactation.
Frank and his family are milking 103 cows on a highly stocked, intensively-farmed milking platform. With 12ha available for grazing, the area available for the cows to graze is extremely tight.
A new zero grazer was purchased, which is enabling him to stock the grazing platform higher and bring the grass back into the cows.
Generally, cows are out grazing by day and zero grazing by night.
Frank was previously walking cows up the road to another block but the addition of the zero grazer has meant he no longer walks cows on the road. He is happy with his decision;
“It’s working well, giving me the flexibility when needed as I have the option to cart grass in from other blocks but the big plus is not having cows on the road and no additional help is needed at milking times,” Frank says.
At the moment, milk yield is 25.9l/cow/day at 3.72% butterfat and 3.2% protein or 1.84kg MS/cow/day.
He is supplying milk to Lakeland Dairies and on a full A+B-C milk payment system.
Meal feeding levels are 4kg/cow/day but with grass growth rates at 57kg/day and dropping due to the heat and lack of moisture, Frank will be doing well to hold feed levels as they are.
The low level of fat and protein is a concern for Frank. Some of this is due to breeding.
While breeding is one factor in herd performance, feeding is another
His herd average EBI is €93, while the national average is closer to €117. His focus needs to be on increasing the EBI of the herd, both in fertility and milk sub-index. He needs to pick bulls with a high PTA for milk and protein percentage.
While breeding is one factor in herd performance, feeding is another.
CAFRE adviser Michael Verner has identified that zero-grazed grass being fed at night is very lush, having come from short, leafy grass.
While high-quality, it is low in fibre which could be affecting butterfat percentage.
The main first-cut silage was harvested from 65 acres on 29 May and half of this area received slurry and protected urea after harvest
Frank says that the butterfat dropped a lot when this grass began to be fed. Frank is also feeding 6kg of maize silage at night.
Eleven acres of maize are growing on the farm, which he hopes to be in a position to harvest in the third week of September.
The main first-cut silage was harvested from 65 acres on 29 May and half of this area received slurry and protected urea after harvest, with the other half getting protected urea and straight potash.
It’s interesting to note that the area for silage is twice the area available for grazing and this just shows the challenges and extra costs involved in dealing with fragmented farms.
Frank has spread over 120t of lime at a rate of 2t per acre, as a result of a low pH reading in the most recent soil sampling.
Latest rolling average figures are 6,874l/cow/year from 1.39t of meal per cow with a milk solids yield of 533kg/cow/year and margin over concentrate of €1,862/cow/year.
Later-born calves were stalled due to the cold spring and have had meal feeding increased to 1.5kg/head/day to claw back lost growth
The milk solids target for 2021 was set at 550kg MS/cow, with the long-term target being to produce 620kg MS/cow from 1.5t of meal – similar to the target at Lyons herd in UCD.
The earlier-born calves were able to run in and out from the shed from mid-March and went out full-time from mid-April.
Later-born calves were stalled due to the cold spring and have had meal feeding increased to 1.5kg/head/day to claw back lost growth.
The majority of the AI bulls being used are sourced through World Wide Sires.
Frank is aiming for a cow with good milk quality, good functional traits and a cow with plenty of capacity to process large quantities of forage.
Breeding commenced on 25 April and beef semen has been used since the end of June.
Calving is due to commence from 1 February next year. The 37 in-calf heifers were bred with sexed semen. No scanning has been completed to date. This is likely to take place in mid-August.