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Maximising calf performance in Monaghan

Seamus and Siobhan McMahon milk 120 dairy cows in Dunlety, Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan just a few miles from the birthplace of the great Patrick Kavanagh.

Seamus is a Glanbia milk supplier who has been involved in dairy for the past 30 years and is operating a 50:50 autumn and spring calving herd.

Seamus adds that, “the total farm size is 190 acres. One of the blocks is an out farm that we use to rear replacements and it also supplies us with two cuts of silage per year. We milk predominantly Holstein Freisan cows with a current yield of 26 litres p/cow/day at 3.9% fat and 3.4% protein.”

2019 Calving Season

Seamus states, “Currently 60 autumn cows have calved. These started calving on 3rd September, with the last autumn cow calving on the 20th December. We are due to start spring calving on the 3rd February and expect the last of the cows to calve on the 15th April.”

Seamus employs management practices that ensure that he and Siobhan can maximise their time effectively.

“All machinery, fencing and repairs are outsourced. We concentrate on stock and grassland management, calf rearing and carry out over 60% of the milkings. Casual labour is sourced during busy times, especially during calving. We have a backup of good efficient reliable relief milkers.”

Replacements have been kept on farm up to this year. Seamus places a high importance on continuously improving the genetics of the herd. “I have taken the step to purchase high genetics, disease free and vaccinated stock either on point calving or already calved” adds Seamus.

Calf Nutrition and Health

Seamus ensures that all calves receive colostrum immediately after birth, “All calves receive up to 3 litres of colostrum. This is either fed by teat or stomach tubed at birth. Excess beastings are stored. Calves continue to receive whole milk until the milk is safe for the bulk tank.”

Seamus introduces GAIN EASI-BEEF calf milk replacer when the calves are one week old. GAIN EASI-BEEF is a 20% protein milk replacer suitable for high performance calf rearing systems. “We use GAIN EASI-BEEF up to an average of 12 weeks. This would obviously depend on weight gain and calf size.”

Seamus also speaks about the quality of the GAIN calf feed products that he uses, “we give the calves ad lib access to GAIN GoldGrain until weaning. All calves are given roughage in the form of straw. After weaning they are given 2.5kg of GAIN GoldGrain, with ad lib access to silage and fresh water.”

GAIN GoldGrain calf nuts are an 18% crude protein wholegrain calf feed. GAIN Goldgrain is for pre and post weaning feeding. They contain Yea-Sacc live-yeast which supports digestion and performance. It helps to stabilise rumen conditions and encourage intake.

“Weaning usually starts by introducing once a day feeding and ensuring ad lib access to meal, water and straw or silage. After one week of observation, milk is withdrawn. Any calves we feel that are not thriving are re-introduced to once a day feeding.”

Seamus places a high importance on herd health, “We vaccinate all the cows with Rotavec K99 to prevent scours. All the calves receive decox through the meal before being let out. Pneumonia hasn't been a problem on the farm. Calves are kept well bedded in well ventilated sheds both pre and post weaning. All sheds are relatively new.” Seamus said.

Craft Brewing

Seamus has done great work over the past 5 years building another on farm enterprise. It’s a craft brewery called Brehon Brehouse, which is housed on the farm, just a short distance from the old homestead.

Just a few miles from the birthplace of Patrick Kavanagh, the inspiration for Seamus’ India Pale Ale came about – Stony Grey IPA.

Seamus adds’ “Our aim is to create distinct beers that are brewed with care and affection. Our brewer has created a range of well balanced and flavoursome ales that reflect the changing face of the beer market in Ireland. We were quite busy on the farm but this is a different form of stress. The dairy now acts as a form of therapy. I don't get as stressed as I used to by the uncertainty in farming. Brehon Brewhouse has taken care of that. Now we are exporting to Europe and beyond.”

Seamus recently travelled to Orlando to launch his new brand.

Technical Support

Seamus has built a very strong relationship with his Glanbia Business Manager Tony Brennan. “Tony visits the farm regularly and works with us on our nutrition programme. He formulates our feeding plans based on best practices for calf nutrition as well as the best value for money solution.”

Seamus feels that one of the biggest benefits of having Tony on hand is his technical expertise; “His input is really important. No matter what situation that you find yourself in, there’s always a solution. Myself and Tony work together to find a solution that best suits our system we have here on the farm. As a result, the calves are performing at their optimum.”

Seamus admits that the biggest benefit of the GAIN Animal Nutrition product range is the quality of the product range and price point that they offer. “We receive top quality products delivered fresh and at a competitive price. I know that I am using the right products at the most competitive price.”

First Published on 5 February 2019

Tagged with: Dairy

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