One of the true highlights of the dairying year in Northern Ireland, the NMR open day, will take place this year on Wednesday 5th August.
The hosts are the Fullerton family, who milk 240 full pedigree Holstein Cows near Tobermore in Co Londonderry. The overarching theme for the day is “driving dairy efficiency – from birth to bulk tank”.
And it really is a case of each generation within the Fullerton family learning from the next. Sean and Pat currently manage the business with Sean’s son, Kevin, who entered the business after finishing Greenmount. All three contribute to the major decisions and the overall management of the farm.
Sean currently manages the business with son Kevin but with his own father Patrick still a very active contributor when it comes to the overall management of the farm.
The Lisnamuck herd is currently averaging 9,200 litres with excellent butterfat and protein levels.
Cell Counts are below 100,000 cells per/ml. But these figures in no way do justice to the exemplary management standards brought to bear by the trio.
In the first instance the herd has been built up from 140 cows to its current size over the past four years.
High levels of milk from forage are obtained on the back of a zero grazing system which is put into operation as soon as the fields can take the weight of the required machinery.
“The zero grazing approach has worked well for us,” Sean explained.
“Putting the cows out to grass is not a feasible option on the farm: so we bring the fresh grass to the cows.
“We plan to introduce the fresh grass into their diets as early in the spring as possible and we will continue on with this approach well into the autumn.
“Achieving the highest possible standards of grassland management is a key objective for the business. We re-seed up to 50 acres each year.”
The Fullertons have recently added SAC Futureline Max robots on the farm, which were installed by Pearson NI to milk the fresh group within the herd at all times.
“This is already proving to be a tremendous asset to the farm,” Sean explained.
“In the first instance it significantly reduces the time taken to put the other cows in the herd through the milking parlour, which is a labour saving benefit in its own right.
“But this approach also ensures that our fresh cows are milked consistently well at all times.
“Cows are switched to the traditional milking routine when their milk output has fallen to 30 litres.”
Excellent cow fertility is another feature of the farm.
Cows are checked for signs of heat regularly through the day and then inseminated on a DIY basis when required.
The Fullertons had previously been participants in the AFBI Dairy Fertility Programme and had, consistently, achieved amongst the highest conception to first service rates amongst the extensive group of farmers participating in that initiative.
This high level of management is then further espoused when it comes to the calf rearing practises adopted on the farm.
Every aspect of the young animals’ nutritional, health and welfare needs are addressed.
As a consequence, heifers are brought through to calving at around 24 months with little or no difficulty.
As NMR’s Ivor Hyndman confirmed, events get underway on the day at 10.00am.
“But we are managing the event in quite a different way this year, he said.
“Rather than the traditional congregating of visitors at a specific time for a set of formal presentations, we have developed an itinerary focussed on structured farm tours, comprising four stop-off points.
“This will allow smaller groups of farmers to get a better grasp of the management practises put in place by the
Fullertons in a more meaningful way.
The four presentations planned for the event are as follows:
r Lisnamuck herd performance, management and feeding. Presentation by Sean Fullerton and David Mawhinney, McLarnon Feeds
r Getting calves on target for a lifetime of productivity. Presentation by Mairead O’Grady, MSD and Liam Young, Drumrainey Vets
r Efficiency through genomic testing. Presentation by Lucy Andrews, NMR
r Zero grazing – the merits and the costs. Presentation by Dr Ronald Annett, McLarnon Feeds.
Ivor Hyndman confirmed that the final tour will commence at 12.30 with lunch to follow.
“As is tradition, we will have a collection for a charity nominated by the host family: the Fullertons have nominated the Marie Curie Cancer Foundation in this regard,” he said.
“All visitors will be made welcome on the day: entry is free.”
The Fullerton farm is located at 42 Lisnamuck Road, Tobermore, BT46 5LD.
Registration is essential for attendance and this can be done by contacting Ivor Hyndman on 07825 177348 or firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting your local McLarnon Feeds representative.
For biosecurity reasons clean clothes and boots not worn on farm must be worn.