Paul and Judith Davoren milk a herd of 70 Holstein-Friesian and Holstein-Fleckvieh-cross cows in The Burren, Co. Clare.
Paul inherited Caherconnell Farm from his father in 2014 and runs the enterprise on a full-time basis, while Judith takes care of spring calves and book-keeping; a neighbour helps out part-time and a relief milker is sought during the spring and busy periods.
The Davorens run a spring-calving dairy herd with an average of 6100kg milk with 445kg Milk Solids at 3.83% fat and 3.38% protein.
They introduced Fleckvieh genetics in order to increase the strength of their Dairy herd, with a view to improving body condition, health and longevity of their animals without impacting on the milk production.
“So far it has been very successful. We have 18 first cross Holstein-Fleckvieh cows in the herd at present.” Judith told That’s Farming.
“They certainly have a better frame and keep better Body Condition - this has added value to our cull cows and we also get a better price for our Fleckvieh-cross bull calves.” She added.
Paul and Judith maintain that these cows have a very placid temperament and are producing the same amount of Milk Solids as their Holstein-Friesian counterparts with a very low SCC (somatic cell count).
Their ideal cow holds her body condition, goes in-calve to the first straw, her bull calf has shape, produces 450+kg Milk Solids with low SCC and stays in the herd for at least five lactations.
“She is resilient, transitioning easily from calving to milking, from grass to silage, from outside to the shed. She mightn’t light up any stars but she’s easy to manage and cheap to keep.” Judith added.
Fleckvieh semen is sourced from both Bayern Genetik (Germany) and Genetic Austria. “Fleckviehs are basically a type of Milking Simmental and a purebred Fleckvieh can actually be registered and recorded as a purebred Simmental.”
“There are multiple bloodlines and it is very easy to avoid inbreeding.” She added.
Two of the herd’s favourite herd sires are Wille and Rurex - Wille has loads of milk,
and a larger frame, while Rurex has great components, lots of muscularity, and great shape, they said.
“We have some Reumut heifers coming in this year as well; he’s a very promising bull so we’re excited to see that they are like.”
They also earmark a stock bull calf each year, choosing an AI-sired calf from one of their best cows. “This bull is used after AI straws are used for about a month and then we replace him with the Hereford bull.” Judith outlined.
In addition to supplying Kerry, Caherconnell Dairy Farm also supply milk to a local cheese producer - Aillwee Caves - who produce Burren Gold cheese exclusively from the Davoren’s milk. “The quality of our milk is particularly important as a result,” Judith added.
The Davorens haven’t expanded since milk quotas ended as its cubicle house is at peak capacity - so instead they have tried to focus on improving their enterprise by investing in new technologies.
They have invested in a Lely calf feeder and RedRock Diet Feeder to improve the feeding regimes. They also installed plastic slats in the calf shed earlier this year to create a cleaner environment.
In addition to the other measures, they have improved farm roadways and have carried out subsoiling and aeration on the land to improve drainage.
This year, the Clare farmers will be expanding their cubicle shed so 2020 will see their herd size increase to approximately 85 milking cows; they will also be in a position to winter their own replacements.
“We are very happy with the Fleckvieh-crosses and plan to take some of the herd down the path of a full absorption cross – pedigree Flechvieh.”
“The rest of the herd will be crossed back to Holstein in a two-way, although we are giving some consideration to introducing Norwegian Red and making it a three-way rotation,” Judith concluded.
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Image source: Caherconnell Dairy Farm