As Strangford dairy farmer Cavan Johnston will quickly testify, it takes a lot of housing to meet the accommodation needs of 170 dairy cows and their progeny, all of which are kept as either heifer replacements or reared through to beef.
“I have built up the cow numbers over the years,” he said.
“But 12 months or so ago, I reached a stage when some pretty radical decisions had to be taken regarding the future of the business. I have two men employed full time and all of the calves, not kept as replacements, are finished as beef on this farm.
“I knew that to remain viable, an increase in cow numbers would be required. I had the land to make this a feasible proposition, but not the buildings.
“Fundamentally, I knew that I wanted to stay in farming. So it wasn’t that big a decision, at the end of the day, to commit to a new slatted shed with 110 cubicles.”
The Johnston herd, in the main, is made up of Shorthorn cross Friesian cows with a bit of Holstein blood used to boost milk volumes and cow size. Over the past number of years, there has been a gradual move towards a spring calving focus.
“This is a very early part of the country,” Cavan explained.
“Normally I can have cows out at the beginning of February, although they didn’t see grass until March this year because of the late spring. The herd is currently averaging 7,500l at 4.1% butterfat and 3.3% protein.
“Of this 4.000l is produced from forage. The cows receive an average of 1,5t of concentrates per annum.”
The new shed is 153 feet in length and 53 feet wide. It features the new Easyfix cubicles with rubber loop, cubicle mats and brisket boards.
The cubicle design from Easyfix features flexible plastic tube with rubber loop and posts manufactured from 4mm steel. This compares with the 2.7 – 3.0 mm steel, used in traditional installations. A bespoke scratching area is also included with each cubicle.
The end result is a higher level of comfort for cows of all sizes. The front and sides of the cubicles remain open, thereby providing freedom of movement into and out of the cubicle at all times while flexible and moveable arms act to reduce cow injuries.
The new Easyfix cubicle system has been designed to deliver significantly higher levels of cow comfort. All of its innovative components have been specifically developed and tested to meet the needs of dairy farmers in Northern Ireland.
Cavan confirmed that the new building was partly used last winter, as a means of taking pressure off the other sheds on the farm,
“The cows took to their new accommodation extremely well,” he said.
“The more comfortable they are; the more milk they will produce from the same level of inputs.”
Easyfix will have a major presence at this year’s Balmoral Show. The company will be unveiling its new cubicle system for the first time in Northern Ireland at this year’s event. The company will be located on Stand AP8 in the Agri Pavilion.