FBD Best Dairy Herd Finalist-Exceptional milk performance in Limerick dairy herd

Richard O’Shaughnessy farms 86 commercial dairy cows in Askeaton, Co. Limerick. The herd consists of 86 milking cows and 60 youngstock. The overall herd EBI has seen a gradual increase from €146 in 2017 to €164 in 2020. Richard has been using the HerdPlus service since 2007 and is actively engaged in high levels of data recording which can be seen through his use of milk recording, AI usage involvement in Greenbreed, the DNA calf registration pilot and previous participation in the KT Dairy programme. “Information keeps everything going forward.”

EBI: Cows €171, Heifers €203, Calves €226

Kg milk solids/cow: 533

6-week calving rate: 100%

Calving interval: 365

6-week calving rate: 100%

% AI Usage: 81%

The calving season starts early in the Limerick herd. As Richard farms on particularly dry ground, he is able to get the cows out to grass early on. The 2021 calving season began on 8th of January.

As the herd is quite “milky”, when it comes to breeding, Richard focuses on improving fertility, fat and protein percentage.  Young bulls are very much to the fore when selecting bulls for breeding. Richard opts for a team of high EBI bulls, generally sticking to those at the top of the ICBF Active Bull List. According to Richard “You don’t lose out by using young bulls. They are the future.” When it comes to reproduction, the information is there to strategically match bulls with cows to improve individual traits and maximise genetic gain.

AI is used for 6 weeks. When enough cows have been bred to dairy AI Richard opts for easy calving beef (generally Hereford) straws on the remainder. “Hard calving adds trouble and cost for the cow thereafter. Not worried about the general size of the calf”

All females are genotyped, and Richard uses the genomic EBI data to decide which replacements to keep and which to sell on. “Over the last few years all the heifers on the farm are genotyped. All of the genomic information allows me to select which heifers can be sold. This allows me to sell the lower ranking heifers.”

Richard has been milk recording for many years now and believes that it is a must for every dairy farmer. “You can’t be seriously milking cows without knowing what they are doing – you need milk recording for this.” Milk recording allows Richard to see what his cows are capable of and acts as an aid in essential decision making. This winter was the 3rd time Richard participated in Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT). Any cows lower than 90,000 SCC receive sealer only. On average, 50% of the herd receive sealer only. To date SDCT has been working extremely well.

The herd’s co-op performance is exceptional with MS/cow at 533kg. The herd currently ranks in the top 10% of Kerry suppliers, in 5 out 6 of the milk performance key performance indicators (KPIs).

Richard is always looking to improve his management practices and adopt new technologies. Last year, he purchased an automatic calf feeder which has significantly reduced labour during the busy time.

Richard uses low emission slurry spreading on his farm to help with GHG emissions. Furthermore, by breeding high EBI animals, he is focused on breeding a more GHG efficient animal. To ensure the future success of the herd, Richard will continue to adopt new technologies as they become available.