FBD Best Dairy Herd Finalist – “Milk recording is an essential tool for managing SCC and identifying poor performing cows in the Knockmullane herd”

Brendan Brady operates a 130 pedigree HO/FR cow herd under the Knockmullane prefix in Innishannon, Co Cork. The overall herd EBI has seen a steady increase from €133 in 2016 to €189 in 2021. Brendan has been using the HerdPlus service since 2008 and is actively engaged in high levels of data recording as seen through his participation in milk recording, AI usage, Greenbreed, the DNA Calf Registration programme and previous involvement in the KT Dairy programme.

The herd’s co-op performance is exceptional with MS/cow at 527kg. The herd ranks in the top 20% of Bandon Co-op suppliers across five of the six milk performance KPIs.

Key Performance Indicators

EBI: Cows €189, Heifers €216, Calves €207

Kg milk solids/cow: 527

Fat %: 4.21

Protein %: 3.57

6-week calving rate: 97%

Calving interval: 368

AI usage: 100%

The calving season typically begins around the 3rd February and lasts for 8 weeks. The herd’s 6-week calving rate is exceptional at 97% as well as 100% of heifers calving between 22 and 26 months.

When selecting bulls, the traits of most importance are fertility and milk. Brendan is a user of the HerdPlus Sire Advice tool to aid in bull selection. 100% AI is used over a strict 7-week period in the Knockmullane herd. High EBI, genomic, pedigree HO/FR AI bulls are used for the first 5 weeks followed by easy calving and short gestation beef AI bulls (generally Angus and Blue) for the remaining 2 weeks.

The Knockmullane herd has been involved in the Dairy Gene Ireland programme since 2005 and Brendan feels that it has been working very well to date. This long-term access to the top genetics each year has allowed the Knockmullane herd to enter the top 1% of herd EBI nationally at €189. Based on the success of the Dairy Gene Ireland programme, Brendan began using Dairy-Beef Gene Ireland straws in 2018.This gives Brendan access to cost effective beef bulls that have been specially selected for use on dairy cows.

Brendan used the HerdPlus Fertility reports to track the herd’s submission rates. An empty rate of 10% to 12% is usually achieved after the 7-week breeding season, with any cows not in calf being culled.

The herd is in its fifth year of Selective Dry Cow Therapy (SDCT). Milk recording has proved to be an essential tool for managing SCC and identifying poor performing cows. Brendan typically completes 6 recordings a year and aims to do the final recording as late into the lactation as possible. In the Knockmullane herd, any cow with an SCC over 150K received a dry cow tube and sealer. According to Brendan “milk recording has a big role in helping the farm to retain the milk quality bonus from Bandon Co Op.” In the Knockmullane herd a higher-yielding animal is favourable as Brendan believes that “they are more environmentally sustainable in comparison to a low-cost system.”

Brendan has been using protected urea for the last 2 years. He also practices Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) which is carried out by a local contractor. It is important to Brendan to protect the water quality on the farm as well as the image of Irish dairy farming nationally and internationally.

More recently, Brendan has become involved in the DNA Calf Registration programme which sees all calves DNA tested and parentage verified at birth. All cows and first calvers are now genotyped and the 2020 heifers are due to be genotyped in the coming months. With the calves having genomic evaluations at a young age, Brendan will be able to use this information when selecting replacements to keep.

For the Knockmullane herd the long-term goal is to breed a cow that is capable of producing 600kg/MS from grazed grass, forage and 1t to 1.5t of meal. To achieve this target, Brendan hopes to maintain his excellent herd management practices and continue to breed high EBI animals by using the latest genomic sires that are available.