The wet weather on Friday failed to dampen the crowds that turned out at the Irish Holstein Friesian Association (IHFA) open day on the Flynn farm at Clonaslee, Co Laois.
With the rain pouring down outside, the crowd was sheltered by being inside under the cover of the big cubicle shed, while the cows grazed happily outside.
Visitors were treated to the details of not just one farm, but seven farms, each operating different systems of production.
According to IHFA chief executive Laurence Feeney, the purpose of the event was to showcase how adaptable high-quality Holstein Friesian cows are across a range of different production systems.
The Reary herd, owned by Kevin and Martina Flynn, consists of 178 cows, with an average 305-day milk recording production of 9,644kg of milk per cow at 3.95% fat and 3.46% protein or 715kg milk solids per cow (MS/cow) from 1.4t of meal per cow.
The herd is split calving, with 60% calving in the spring and the remainder in the autumn. The EBI of the herd is €131, with €60 for milk and €32 for fertility. The calving interval is 372 days with an average of 3.9 lactations in the herd.
The herd is buffer fed with maize and beet at the shoulders of year. Kevin says he has been feeding maize since 1990 and finds it a wonderful feed, especially when cows are grazing;
“We grow maize on the outside blocks of land and that works very well. It makes life simple and is brilliant in spring, a great complement to grass,” he says.
The typical diet in winter in fresh weight terms is 25kg of 75% DMD grass silage, 25kg of maize, 1kg to 1.5kg of soya bean meal and 10kg of beet which is purchased in. The cows are fed 6kg of meal in the parlour.
Feed costs make up about 30% of all costs on the farm and Kevin says they haven’t varied hugely in recent years.
Patrick Kelly from the IHFA pointed out that the farm nitrogen use efficiency is very high at 46%, whereas the national average is 25%.
He said the high milk yields being achieved with very efficient use of meal and fertiliser was the key to high nitrogen use efficiency.
On the subject of nitrates, the herd is in the high band for nitrates and has an organic nitrogen figure of 228kg N/ha.
In order to get back to 220kg, Kevin would need to reduce by eight cows and followers, or export slurry or take on more land.
The stark reality is that if he was to farm without a derogation and without exporting slurry or leasing more land, 60 cows and followers would have to be culled.
The other farmers who spoke at the open day were: