Bavanmore Farm is home to a high-input 150-cow herd – the majority of which are Holsteins; however, up to 40 Montbeliarde cows also dominate the pastures.
Hugh Morgan, his son Michael, along with Simon Byrne (farm manager) and David McNamee – a student at Greenmount/Queen's University Belfast – oversee the running of the dairy enterprise in Killean, south Armagh.
They operate a year-round calving and robotic milking system; in recent years, more emphasis has been placed on breeding a higher-yielding, stronger cow that is more suited to a high-input indoor system.
“With the help of Bobby Franks, an IHFA (Irish Holstein Friesian Association) development officer, we can select bulls to correct faults and problems with our current cows,” David told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“We can do this through the use of AI and can, therefore, breed a more desirable replacement, suited to our system.”
They aim to breed a healthy cow with excellent feet, strong front legs and a deep and wide chest.
“With these traits, we aim to prolong the life of our cows; with it being an indoor system, it is crucial to have these traits to give them every opportunity to make it in our herd.”
As well as this, positive numbers for kilograms of milk, butterfat and protein are desirable for Bavanmore Farm.
“After 10 years of breeding cows suited to our indoor robotic system, I believe we have corrected most physiological features of our herd and more emphasis has been placed on milk and milk solids in recent years.”
Cows are producing 6,800L at 4.07% butterfat and 3.33% protein from a concentrate input of 2.6-tonnes.
“I believe our cows can produce more than this annual figure; we are moving from a robot to a parlour because of the possibility of milking 3 times per day to utilise the capabilities of our herd.”
90 heifers will join the herd in the coming 12 months - 20 of which are high-EBI females that were purchased recently.
“The breeding policy for heifers is first service to sexed semen AI and after that, they run with one of our two high-EBI Holstein stock bulls.”
They have decided to add these heifers to their herd following the purchase of a new herringbone milking parlour, which they hope will be ready next month; this will replace a robot which they purchased 10-years ago.
“We understood that going from a robot to an ordinary milking parlour would be a downgrade; therefore, we opted to install a milking parlour that will do everything the robot does, with the exception of attaching the clusters.”
“We believe that a parlour is more suited to us, having milked robotically for the past 10 years.”
“I believe newer robots have a place in the modern dairy farming industry; I am by no means trying to say that robots are not good, the new ones are, and are always improving but we believe the concept remains the same.”
“Robots versus parlour is more of a lifestyle/workload choice; it is not good versus bad or future versus past,” David said.
In total, there are 250-acres of grassland farmed - approximately 210-acres of first-cut silage ground and 40-acres of grazing. 100-acres of the silage ground are located on the County Louth/ Meath border, while the remaining 110-acres of silage ground are within 3-miles of the farm.
Slurry is spread on all grassland in February/March; silage ground will receive about 150kg/ac of artificial fertiliser, with a view to having 80-units of nitrogen applied before April 1st.
This allows the farmers to take their first-cut of silage around the second week in May.“Most second/third-cut is let out, with around 50-acres being saved for round bales of haylage, hay if possible.”
“Our cows are fed first-cut silage almost 12-months of the year; it is crucial that we get our first-cut right,” David added.
Looking ahead, the team's long-term goal for Bavanmore Farm is to increase their herd size to four-hundred cows.
“For now, our short-term plan is to move into our parlour as easily as possible; we would like to improve silage quality and the consistency of the herd,” David concluded.
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