Elaine and Nigel Weir farm at 32 Hilltown Road, Rathfriland beneath the beautiful Mourne Mountains in scenic Co. Down.
They have five children Ryan, Aaron, Jenny, Louise and Callum ranging from 25 to 11 years of age so there is no labour shortage on this family farm.
They make three cuts of silage and reseed land regularly as required on their 250 acre farm.
Nigel is the person responsible for the cows. Elaine looks after the book keeping. However if needs be she is well able to milk the cows.
What is unusual is that they have a herd of 200 high yielding cross bred cows which are also milked three times a day.
It takes two hours to do the milking in a 24 unit Dairymaster parlour which was commissioned in 2008.
The hi tech equipment includes an Automatic Cluster Removal (ACR) system, auto ID, milk meters & feed to yield.
With the ACR system the cows are never over milked and it also takes pressure off the milker.
The herd is a cross between Ayrshire, Holstein and Swedish Red cows. Average yield is quite high at around 9,000 litres pa.
Nigel reckons that three times a day milking increases the average yield by up to 20% which is quite significant.
According to Nigel “cross breeding has worked well for us producing a lower maintenance cow with less health problems.
“Feet condition is improved and mastitis is rarely a problem. Cull rate is also lower at 18% as a result of this” so he is a happy man with contented cows. Milk solids and dairy hygiene are excellent on this progressive farm.
Currently Butterfat is 4.07% and milk Protein is 3.28%. The average SCC last year was 192 and TBC is currently at 14.
Nigel has some good tips for parlour maintenance, dairy hygiene and animal health.
He recommends a regular servicing of the milking parlour and bulk tank: “Ensure liners are changed on time and as the parlour and tank are cleaned automatically it is important to make regular checks on the cleaning/dosing system to ensure they are fully operational.”
Finally he says one should keep cows clean and have the cubicles bedded and dry. He says it also reduces the pressure on the cow’s udders and improves her health and animal welfare.
The herd book is computerised using the Farm Wizard software. It has the ability to record breeding events by mobile phone text message or PDA.
The Red Tractor farm and food quality assurance scheme was established in 2000 and has grown to become the UK’s biggest farm and food quality standards scheme, covering all of animal welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection.
According to Elaine membership of this scheme simply means doing what any good farmer would be doing but documenting same.
Crossing the I’s and dotting the t’s: “Ian Olphert the Lacpatrick Coop, Farm Technical Officer is a great help to us,” says Elaine.
He does a pre-audit with us first and the Red Tractor auditor only calls every 18 months.”
LacPatrick Co-op pays a 0.2p/litre bonus to farmers in Northern Ireland who supply milk that meets the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme standard.
So that is a nice financial incentive indeed. However it will soon be a mandatory requirement for all suppliers to Lacpatrick Co-op.