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*The Melody senior herd sire, F.H. Unique

Last weekend we welcomed Dr. Keir McNamara and his Agricultural Science class to our farm to discuss all things agriculture with a special focus on the environment. It was great to have such an engaging group of students walking the farm and drawing up the connection between their syllabus and what’s happening on a typical Irish dairy farm in the spring.

Keir has a wealth of experience in agricultural science but he also has a really well travelled and varied experience in farming from seeing multi story pig farms in Hong Kong to planting thousands of acres of canola in western Australia. It is great to meet someone who speaks with such enthusiasm about agriculture and brings it to life for his students.

It might have been a day for learning for the students but it definitely was for me too as I learned that the new ag science syllabus is covering the more technical aspects of modern farming such as EBI but is also very much focused on sustainability and the environment. I hope that as a subject it could spark the inspiration for some of these teenagers to adopt a career in farming.

Zero grazing is playing a role currently in supplementing the cows diet. We find it a great fit for our system as we run a lower stocking rate on the outside farm and this allows us to utilise grass from there as well as reducing our meal feeding. The cows eat this after milking and after an hour of feasting on this luscious salad bar of grass they are satisfied and tend to lie down when they go out to the paddock. In previous years we would have used high quality silage bales as a supplement to the diet when grass growth was slow. We have identified paddocks that are underperforming in terms of grass growth but also grass quality, these are being burned off this week and will be reseeded.

Our target is 10 grazings per paddock per year and hopefully when these are back in new grass we will exceed that target. Abraham Lincoln said “Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where there was but one, is both a profit and a pleasure,” that was in 1859 and it still rings true today.

Breeding season is just around the corner, our mating start date is the 1st of May. We have picked our team of bulls and for our herd we are placing a special emphasis on protein in the dairy bulls. We will also use some beef A.I. on later calving cows and cows we don’t deem good enough to breed a replacement heifer. The herd has went through its expansion phase now so the next phase will be building on the genetics that already exist in the herd and to get those cows to perform to their genetic potential.

All heifers will be bred to dairy A.I. as these have the highest genetic merit in the herd. We run stock bulls after a few rounds of A.I. our senior herd sire is a Hereford bull called F. H. Unique, we bought him a few years ago at the premier Hereford bull sale in Tullamore and he is breeding consistency quality calves and most importantly he’s easy calving. To be busy calving in February we need to be busy breeding in May, there are a lot of variables but we can just do our part.

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