Shanawayhill Farm is home to a highly-renowned high-yielding pedigree registered Holstein and Jersey herd.
The operation which is situated in the heart of Shanaway East, Ballineen, Co. Cork is run by Tim and Mary McCarthy and their son Christopher McCarthy, with assistance sought from his girlfriend - Ciara O’Regan.
After rolling out an intensive bull beef production programme for years, the family made the switch to dairy in Spring-2015, after purchasing several Holstein Friesian and Jersey heifers in 2011 which laid to the foundation for the newly formed dairy herd.
A total of twenty-five cows - the majority of which were purchased as calves at the mart kick-started the McCarthy’s dairy farming venture.
Laying the foundation
“We ran a Holstein bull with the cows and a number of his daughters were retained in order to build up numbers. Some of his progeny continue to milk in the herd to this day.” Christopher McCarthy told Catherina Cunnane.
From there, deals were sealed for numerous high-end cattle from well-known farms in a bid to boost the quality and quantity of the herd.
The McCarthy family turned their attention to a high-yielding system, primarily due to the size of the holding, with 55-acres on the farm’s home block and an additional 13-acres on an outblock.
A total of fifty-five cows pass through the milking parlour, 30 pedigree Holsteins, and twenty-five pedigree Jerseys. Autumn calving will get underway on August, 20th, with a view to concluding this by the end of November.
100% of heifers are retained as replacements, while bull calves are sold at 6-weeks of age at a mart in the locality. The herd utilises 70% beef AI, the majority of which are popular easy-calving and short gestation Aberdeen-Angus and Belgian Blue sires.
On the Holstein Friesian front, the McCarthys strive to breed a North-American type animal, with an emphasis placed on the utilisation of elite North American and Canadian genetics, while a limited number of Irish bulls have also been used on the farm, with satisfactory results. Semen from Jersey bulls is sourced from North America; Denmark and the U.K.
“When selecting a Jersey bull, I look firstly at the breeding lines of the bull, followed by the kgs of protein produced and I then I go in search of the highest milk figure that I can find,” Christopher explained.
The success of the farm’s selective breeding programme is reflected in last year’s performance figures - the herd of Holstein Friesian and Jersey cows averaged 7,800-litres; 4.32% fat; 3.51% protein and approximately 557kgs of solids/cow.
[Photo: Jane Steel]
The herd which is registered with the Jersey Cattle Society of Ireland and Irish Holstein Friesian Association is no stranger to the show circuit.
Christopher was just 14-year-old when he made his debut on the show scene with Shanawayhill Lady who set the standard with an unstoppable winning streak. Her grand-daughter, Shanawayhill Remarkable Lady participated at the YMA National Calf Show finals at The Hub, Cillin Hill, Co. Kilkenny earlier this week.
In total, the family, who have a fair share of prestigious title to their name, attend a total of fifteen shows throughout the summer; they begin their nationwide trek with Bandon Show and wrap up their calendar of events with the famed National Dairy Show. The success springs back to Smallacre Lily and Smallacre Sasha who both have had a major influence on the performance of the herd, right up to the present day.
“Smallacre Lily was awarded the highest EBI in the heifer born on or after January,1st, 2011 at the National Dairy Show 2011 - this is one of our proudest moments,” Christopher said.
“Her stablemate, Smallacre Sasha was one of the farm’s best cows, but unfortunately she died last year. We have one descendant remaining on the farm.”
[ Photo: Jane Steel]
Looking forward to the future, the McCarthys have a desire to grow the herd ever so slightly, to sixty cows.
Sourcing and utilising the best possible genetics is the key to unlocking the herd’s untapped potential, according to Christopher. The McCarthys hope to import more lines from across the waters from other European countries and the U.S,, as several high-end North American cow families have been introduced to Cork soil.
“The goal is to have a herd producing 10,000-litres, with 700kgs of milk solids, although we will retain a steady eye on protein,” Christopher concluded.
Main Photo: Smallacre Lily - Picture by Jane Steel.
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