Michael Ring milks 80 cows with the help of his father Liam and mother Mary in the attractive Co Tipperary village of Emly.

His path to running the family dairy herd wasn’t conventional. He qualified as a primary school teacher and taught full-time for 13 years until 2019, when he took a year off while Liam underwent surgery for a replacement knee.

He never went back to full-time teaching and now juggles family life, milking cows and subbing in the local primary schools.

The local principals all have his phone number stored under favourites on their mobiles!

His wife Catherine is also a full-time primary school teacher, so between them they look after their young family Caoimhe (seven), Róisín (five) and Cathal (18 months).

In the past, Liam and Michael used a couple of beef bulls and bought in replacement dairy heifers.

But over the last few years, Michael was keen to take control of the genetics in his own herd, so making full use of his Irish Cattle Breeding Federation reports, he started selecting the best EBI bulls for his best cows and heifers.

They are restricted by the size of the grazing platform at home (23ha), but they have two other blocks of land close to home for silage and grazing the heifers and youngstock.

Michael was quick to point out that on all three pieces of land they have excellent handling facilities with good crushes and pens. They rear all of their calves and Liam and Mary take on this responsibility.

The non-replacement calves have a value. They sell roughly half as yearlings in the springtime and the rest as 18-month-old stores off grass.

“I had been discussing the pros and cons of synchronisation and sexed semen with Michael for a couple of years,” said Marie-Louise Ryan of Mulcair Veterinary.

“Last year, he dipped his toe in the water and synchronised them all, but only used sexed semen on half of them and conventional on the rest. He got better success with the sexed than the conventional, but they were the better-grown heifers.”

As Michael’s father Liam pointed out, they learned from this and upped their game regarding the care and feeding of all the calves.

This included vaccination with Rispoval RS Pi3 IntraNasal at about 10 days of age and then in the autumn, two vaccine shots against RSV, Pi3 and IBR, to reduce the risk of pneumonia at housing, which had occurred on previous years to a lesser or greater extent. All of the heifers were weighed at housing and penned and fed accordingly.

They followed the CIDR sync protocol to a T.

Marie-Louise set the programme up and Michael and his parents then did the injections and removed the CIDRs as instructed, which involved gathering the heifers before the morning milking on three occasions.

“It is great to have a good crush and pens and to have trained them with a little feed in advance of the programme,” said Michael. “It is easy with a little patience, a good team and good facilities!”

Synchronising heifers

“This year, we have a much better bunch of maiden heifers. Twenty-one in total, which will all be CIDR synced and will all be getting sexed semen.

"I have another 20 sexed semen straws and I’m selecting 40 cows for them. The first 20 cows that are going off heat when the AI man calls will be served with sexed and the rest will be getting beef semen,” explained Michael.

“Any heifers that repeat will be served with Angus semen for the first repeat and then the bull will be turned out.”

Michael’s encouragement to anyone thinking about trying synchronisation and sexed semen for the first time is: “Firstly, you have the majority of your heifers born in the first week of the calving and, secondly, you don’t have to worry about what to do with Friesian bull calves.”

Watch online

Michael and Marie-Louise were part of a panel discussion hosted by XL Vets discussing all aspects around fertility in spring calving herds.

Rispoval® RS+Pi3 IntraNasal contains modified live Bovine Pi3 virus and BRSV. For further information please contact your veterinary surgeon or Zoetis, 2nd Floor, Building 10, Cherrywood Business Park, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin, D18 T3Y1. (01) 2569800 or www.zoetis.ie. Use medicines responsibly (www.apha.ie). ZT/24/09/01