The Kilsunny team attend the annual IHFA Holstein open day, and they wait in anticipation for their first Hereford calf of the summer.
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The Kilsunny team attend the annual IHFA Holstein open day, and they wait in anticipation for their first Hereford calf of the summer.

Last week, we scanned the spring calved cows and heifers for the second time this season, after completing the first scan in mid May. We like to scan as regularly as possible to help maintain a tight calving pattern and also to identify any issues or problems with the cows early on.

This time round, we scanned 24 dairy cows with 21 of them scanning in-calf. Of the three empty cows, one is reproductively sound, one had a dead embryo and one had a minor uterine infection and needs to be washed-out by the vet and given a shot of estrumate which will jump-start the breeding cycle. Once that programme is completed, she should hold pregnant after the next service.

Along with the three empty cows from this scan, there are six other cows who have either just been served or who are awaiting service presently. That leaves us with a total of 9 cows not scanned in-calf, although some of the un-scanned cows may already be pregnant. I’m fairly happy with that, especially as it’s still only the first week in July.

We calve down a share of cows in the Autumn anyway which means any slippage in calving interval isn’t the end of the world. We will do the last breeding scan of the year sometime in August, before starting up the Autumn breeding season again in late November. Although the final conception rates for the year haven’t been finalised yet, it looks like the herd’s fertility is in good order with the majority of cows already confirmed pregnant for the coming season. We usually return 95% of the cows in-calf each year and I’m confident we should match that target again this year.

We attended the annual IHFA Holstein Open Day at the Crossnacole herd of Victor Jackson and family in County Wicklow during the week too. We operate a totally British Friesian system but as both the British Friesian and Holstein breeds share the same parent Society, we always try to support IHFA events and activities when we can.

This year’s event was very well attended with some terrific cows and heifers on show. After the well-publicised push of the commercial Jersey crossbred dairy cow by Teagasc and others, following on from the annual Dairy Day at Moorepark last week, it was a real treat to see a herd of pedigree Holstein cows who were all working hard and producing huge volumes of milk and solids.

Pictured below the Annual IHFA Holstein Open day.



It seems there are many, many dairy farmers still committed to the black & white cow, with the sale of 50 pedigree youngstock after the open day, proving to be a resounding success. Demand for breeding stock is always the primary gauge of farmer satisfaction with any breed and also testifies to the high levels of confidence and optimism in the dairy sector at present. A 2017 born heifer calf won’t enter milk production until the Spring of 2019 at the earliest so it’s obvious that dairy farmers are facing the future with enthusiasm and positivity.

Back at Kilsunny, our own freshly calved dairy cow is doing brilliantly and has been introduced to the rest of the main milking herd over the weekend. As a particularly heavily milking cow, she was vulnerable to contracting milk fever but she’s out of the danger period and is off at pasture with the rest of the cows now. She’s milking well and should really hit her stride over the coming weeks. She peaked at 12 gallons a day, culminating in an 11,000 litre lactation last year so we’ll be looking forward to filling the tank up again with her this summer too! She is off our Ruby family and is a daughter of Piet Adema 186 (PZI) who has bred some outstanding milky cows for us recently.

The British Friesian is well-known for it’s superb fertility, protein and ease of management so it’s vital to keep the milk production as high as possible to ensure we can compete with the Holstein cow. There is no such thing as the perfect cow (the ideal Teagasc Jersey cross cow included!) – all you can strive for is a cow that ticks as many boxes as possible.

This week on the farm, we’re expecting the first pedigree Hereford calf of the summer with two cows and a heifer in the maternity paddock presently. Fingers crossed, I’ll have some good news from the summer calving season for next week.

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