Milking 109 cows on 140 utilisable acres near Kildimo in Co Limerick, John O’Shaughnessy’s farm was one of the most picturesque visited by the judges.
The mature setting provides the perfect backdrop to the herd of high-EBI cows (the average EBI is €155). John is very much farming with nature and aims to use very few inputs, particularly chemical fertiliser. No chemical nitrogen was spread this year until mid-April and all nitrogen used is protected urea, which will have a positive impact on the farm’s carbon footprint at the next audit.
The addition of a 2,000-gallon trailing shoe slurry spreader and sufficient slurry storage has completely changed fertiliser policy on this farm.
John regularly applies soiled water and slurry after grazing instead of chemical fertiliser, with no apparent reduction in grass growth. Clover content is very high in recently reseeded paddocks.
Cows are fed a total of around 1t of meal per cow and on the day of the judges’ visit, the herd was on 1.7kg of a 12% protein nut.
The farm is very dry and free-draining, with rock close to the surface in many parts of the farm, meaning it is liable to droughts.
It is quite close to the Shannon estuary and Pallaskenry Agricultural College. On the day of the visit, the herd was producing 21l at 3.50% protein and 4.19% fat or 1.66kg MS/cow.
Last year, the herd delivered 465kg MS/cow to Kerry with an average SCC of 59,000 and an average TBC of 4,000.
John is focused on producing quality milk and believes having sufficient hot water is essential to that pursuit.
An ice-bank bulk tank and gas-powered hot water heater cools the milk quickly and heats the water quickly. He is only using chlorine-free products.
John makes sure the wash solution is not circulating for more than eight minutes, as this is how long it takes to fill one of the troughs with water. The gas heaters heat the water to 75°C at a rate of 12l per minute. The milk passes through a two-stage plate cooler and is usually at 3.2°C by the end of milking.
All AI is used with no stock bulls on the farm. John touches up tail paint every four to five days and watches cows closely for signs of heat.
Beef AI is used after three to four weeks of dairy AI. The average EBI of the team of bulls used this year was €279.