William Horgan farms a herd of pedigree registered Holsteins under the ‘Aghaleemore’ prefix in the heart of Killeen, Killarney, Co. Kerry.
William is the third generation of the Horgan family to carry on the long-standing tradition; he took the reins from his father who inherited the farm in 1971 and began milking in 1975 with 25 sucklers.
"When my father got the farm, there wasn’t a concrete slab; a concrete block there or any buildings. It was mostly rushes and gorse bushes and he has spent his life turning into a farm.” William Horgan told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
Today, the farm comprises of 210-acres which includes a milking platform of 95-acres of peaty clay ground.
The third generation farmer’s herd size has increased to 110 cows, since the abolition of milk quotas in 2015.
Last year, the cows supplied in excess of 1,000,000 litres of milk, over the course of a 305-day lactation period, with 729kgs of milk solids produced.
“My ideal cow is medium-sized; functional and long-lasting. She has to have the ability to efficiently convert feed - both grazed grass and TMR feed.” William outlined.
The utilisation of aAa in recent years has allowed William to breed a cow with greater longevity. Genetics are sourced overseas, with no Irish semen used in recent years.
Cows are AI’d over a ten week period, while maiden heifers are served to one/two rounds of sexed semen and a pedigree Holstein Friesian bull is selected for mop-up.
Calves sired by the Aberdeen-Angus stockbull are sold either privately from the farm or at a local mart; FR calves are exported when they reach 2-weeks of age, while up to ten superior types are earmarked for breeding purposes on an annual basis.
“Progeny from some of the herd’s highest protein cow families are retained for breeding. We have a number of satisfied repeat customers.” William said.
A strict culling policy is at the fore of the herd’s breeding programme, although over 30% of heifers were retained as replacements last year. Between 20-30 calved heifers are sold in the spring from the yard and at sales every year.
“I hope to reduce the replacement rate over time to 22%. I don’t see the herd increasing greatly anymore; I plan to maintain the current herd size.” William outlined.
Sales and Society
William does not exhibit at agricultural shows, but he has claimed ribbons for his stock at club show and sales and also had success in herds competitions both at club and national level.
He became involved in the Kerry Holstein Friesian Breeders Club in the mid-2000s and served as chairman from 2011 to 2014. He is currently the Kerry Representative on the National Irish Holstein Friesian Association Council.
“As chairman, I was responsible for organising the heifer and bull sales and an array of events including farm open days and herd and stock-judging competitions, as part of a club committee.”
Looking forward to the future, William will focus on improving the performance of the herd, with a particular emphasis on increasing milk solids production, while continuing to breed a “medium-sized; functional and long-lasting cow.”
“We will also move to a more mature herd going forward,” William noted.
“Long-term, I wish to focus on land improvement. Much of the milking platform has been reclaimed but now emphasis must turn to the improvement of lime and P; N; and K levels to maximise grass production. ” William concluded.
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