Ernie Colhoun and his son Todd milk 100 high yielding dairy cows near Ballymagorry in North Co Tyrone.
The family converted from a suckler beef business in the autumn of 2014 with the decision taken to install a robotic milking system at that time.
A number of the heifers initially bought in are now calving for the second time.
“The farm is all in one block,” Ernie explained.
“Traditionally, we managed the farm so as to ensure the suckler cows made best use of grazed grass. And our aim is to repeat this process with the new dairy herd.”
Todd confirmed that a gateway system has been installed within the cubicle house to ensure the cows have access to the farm’s paddock system throughout the grazing season.
“We are putting in new pathways for the cows at the present time,” he explained.
“Our plan is to allow the cows out to graze during daylight hours.”
Both Ernie and Todd are conscious that freshly calved cows can take Tetany shortly after turnout.
“It was an issue that raised its head when we had the suckler cows,” Todd explained.
“To prevent this from happening we put Crystalyx High-Mags blocks out with the cows throughout the grazing season. They are very palatable and I know they contain a proven source of magnesium.
“The risk of losing cows to magnesium deficiency is one that is just too big to take.
“We will be cutting back on the concentrates offered to the dairy cows going to grass this spring. So it is for this reason that we will keep up with the practise of putting the High-Mag blocks out with the milking group.”
David Morgan, from Caltech-Crystalyx, was a recent visitor to the Colhoun farm. He was accompanied by Kenny Holmes from local distributor Holden Agriculture.
“Too many breeding cows are lost unnecessarily in Northern Ireland each spring as a result of grass staggers,” David explained.
“And the problem can be so easily avoided. It is recommended that the Crystalyx High Mag blocks are placed with the cows after calving, if indoors, and then made available in the grazing areas directly after turnout.”