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The right nutrition is key to a successful breeding season


Rody McEvoy operates a 90 cow dairy herd in Co. Laois. Rody explains, “The main enterprise is dairy, but we do keep some sucklers and sheep. We are milking 90 Holstein Friesian cross British Friesian cows on a 110 acre milking platform. We calve all the cows in the spring. The cows are averaging 5,500 litres and over 400 kilos of milk solids, 3.5% protein and 4% for butter fat. It sounds low, but when you take into account my lack of early grass, it finishes up very strong. I don’t measure the grass using a plate meter, but I'd walk the paddocks fairly regularly. I just make sure that I’m keeping enough grass ahead of them the whole time.” Rody farms with his father Rody senior, wife Jean and his four children; Davin, Faye, Rody and Flynn.

Preparing for the Breeding Season

Rody was very pleased with his 2020 breeding season, “We were very pleased with how breeding worked out for us on the farm. Last year, I was milking 74 cows. Of those 74, there was approximately 6 empty cows, which isn’t bad considering the national average is 15%. Compared to 2019, I’ve 10 extra cows calved at the same time of the year which is brilliant, so breeding obviously went very well for us. I would have thought that because there was a sustained period of drought during last year’s breeding that it would have had a negative impact on breeding as the cows would have been under pressure, it actually didn’t seem to affect them. I would put that down to the condition of the cows, giving them GAIN Spring Starter and GAIN Spring Breeder.”

Rody implements a robust breeding plan to maximise the number of cows that will calve the following calving season, “We AI for a six week period. Traditionally, we do keep bulls, so we let them in thereafter. I'd be writing in the serves in a notebook just so I have a clear of idea of when the cows will be calving. Calving 2021 is almost complete. There's 74 calves there now at the moment. We’ve 14 more to go. Calving has gone very well so far.”

Nutrition is Key

Rody believes that the right nutrition is the key to a successful breeding season. Rody has been using GAIN Spring Starter and GAIN Spring Breeder for a number of years now, “I’ve been using GAIN products for the past number of years here on the farm. I start off by giving the cows GAIN Spring Starter in advance of breeding to make sure that they are in the right condition. I’d give the cows 2.5kg morning and evening. At breeding time, I switch to GAIN Spring Breeder. I’d be giving the cows about 2kg morning and evening. I'd have a very heavy farm. I'd have some ground that I wouldn't even get to graze until April and that's in a good year. It'd be very wet, with water lying on parts of it, so I need to make up that energy balance, especially come breeding season. The GAIN Spring Breeder nut contains Novatan that helps to boost fertility and improve the condition of the cows. So it's fulfilling the needs that I have at that time of year.”

GAIN Spring Breeder is a 13% protein nut that supports milk solids and fertility. It contains three critical components; Novatan, Bioplex and Selplex. Novatin increases the protein available for milk production, reduces scour and increases fertility. Bioplex copper supports fertility, Bioplex zinc supports hoof and udder health, while Selplex selenium improves somatic cell counts, mastitis and fertility.

Rody is quick to highlight the benefits of Novatan in GAIN Spring Breeder, “Traditionally, cows will come in season, but getting them to hold to first service is another thing. I believe that Novatan really helps in increasing the likelihood of my cows going in-calf at first service and holding. I don’t put any minerals through the water, so they are getting all their mineral requirements from the nut.”

Technical Support

Ross Kelly is Rody’s GAIN Business Manager. Rody believes that the support that the team at GAIN offer is a very valuable support to have access to, “From day one, Ross has been very good, very easy to deal with. He's always at the end of the phone if you need him. He regularly checks in to make sure that their products are working for me and my herd.” Ross added that “the main challenge facing dairy farmers over the coming month is getting cows back in-calf. Reproductive efficiency is a function of nutrition intake, management, output and genetics. A high submission rate coupled with high conception rates is essential.

Looking to the future

In terms of future plans, Rody is aiming to reduce the beef side of his enterprise, “I will reduce the suckler side of things in fairness. There's not much of a margin in  beef at the moment. As regards dairy cow numbers at home, if I get near 100 that'll be it. That's enough to manage on my own with family help.”

For more information, please contact your GAIN Business Manager, Glanbia Ireland Branch or visit

First Published: 1 April 2021

Tagged with: Dairy


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