A LARGE turnout of farmers recently attended a visit to the dairy farm of Derick and Hall Donnell, Ballymagorry, Strabane. The visit was organised by McLarnon Feeds and CAFRE’s local Dairy Development Advisory team on the theme of ‘Dairy Management Efficiency – The Way Forward.’
Local CAFRE Dairy Development Adviser, Trevor Alcorn, outlined the performance of the farm and highlighted both Benchmarking and 12 month rolling average McLarnon Milk Manager figures. Benchmarking for the 2011/12 year was 8070 litres on 2418kg of concentrates with 2697 litres Milk From Forage. However, 12 month rolling average up to October has increased to over 9000 litres with 3046kg concentrates fed and 3447 litres Milk From Forage.
Trevor highlighted the difference in quality of this year’s first and second cut silages and showed how a fodder balance was calculated for the farm. He also discussed the options and relative feed values of available feeds for making up a forage deficit, which is common on many farms this year.
Local vet Keith Sheridan from Parkview Veterinary Clinic discussed a range of animal health issues on the farm. Keith paid particular reference to the management of calves and the animal health practices required in order to get heifers in calf and ready to calf down at 24 months of age.
David Mawhinney from McLarnon Feeds presented the feeding management system and highlighted the key practical aspects which contribute to the top performance on the Donnell farm. In particular, feed efficiency, forage quality, transition cow management and fertility performance were discussed at length and how these have a direct effect on farm profitability.
David also discussed the attention to detail on dry cow management on the Donnell farm and how higher Calcium intake pre-calving is now more widely practicised to help prevent metritis and retained cleansings. He concluded that technical efficiency drives profitability and suggested that it was attention to detail on the Donnell farm that set them well above the average.
Ryan Law from AFBI, Hillsborough, presented research findings on optimum concentrate feeding strategies post calving and the Fresh Cow Concept. The key message from Ryan was that work to date has shown that delaying concentrate build-up to day 28 post calving had no effect on milk yield or composition compared to having cows on a rapid build-up with full concentrate allocation at day 10. Delayed build-up also led to higher forage intakes throughout lactation and improved energy status of cows although this was not reflected in improved fertility in this study. The Fresh Cow Concept is now being examined by AFBI on five dairy farms across Northern Ireland.
Finally, the farmers had an opportunity to inspect the new Milfos milking parlour and facilities recently completed by the Donnell’s and representatives from Milfos were on hand to answer any queries.