A dairy farm in Co. Cavan has sought a novel way to improve cow comfort, reduce lameness and maximise milk from grass.
Seamus Dolan, his wife Tina and father Joe milk 240 cows through a 24-unit Delaval parlour with 33% calving in autumn and 66% in spring.
Hillview Farm – which is located in Killynaff, Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan – consists of British Friesian-types, although approximately 20% of cows are Holsteins and a small percentage are cross-breds.
“The furthest point on the milking platform – which is C.65ha - is 1.5km from the parlour,” they explained to Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
“Being in west Cavan, some of the ground is very steep; therefore, cow comfort is of utmost importance.”
“In the back end of the year, cows – which were heavy in-calve - were becoming very slow to travel and appeared to be tender on the feet,” they added.
Together with their discussion group, the Dolans visited one of Ryhs Williams’ farms in Wales; that is where they stumbled across the benefits of astro turf as an alternative roadway surface solution.
“From day one when the astro turf was laid, you could see the immediate impact on cow comfort along with the walking speed - going from 3km/hour to 5km/per hour.”
The Cavan farmers sourced the astro turf from a company in Northern Ireland; it can range in price from €2 per sq metre, depending on where it is sourced.
“We laid it ourselves; each roll weighs about 1-tonne and is 25 metres long x 2 metres wide,” they added.
There is currently 800m of astro turf laid on the Dolan’s farm and they hope to double this in the coming months.
“We aim to maximise the grazing platform to its full potential and increase milk solids per cow; the herd average is just over 500kg/ms per cow from an average concentrate input of 1-1.2-tonnes.”
“We aim to do this without needing to increase meal kg per cow by increasing and utilising grass grown on the farm,” they concluded.
The farmers enlist the help and expertise of Teagasc’s James Dunne from Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan; with emphasis on the selection of high-EBI stock, fertility has improved which has resulted in a more compact calving period.
“Our costs have also been dramatically reduced because of his guidance relating to grass utilisation and measuring of grass on the milking platform.”
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