Browne’s dairy farm hosts 3,000 visitors

Teagasc’s recent open day on large herd management drew up to 3,000 milk producers to the Browne family farm at Knocknagappagh, Killeagh, in East Cork.
Browne’s dairy farm hosts 3,000 visitors

Greenhills Dairies as this large dairy farm is known is managed by Tom Browne, his wife Elizabeth, their son Simon and his cousin Michael J Browne.

Seven people work full-time on this busy farm and others are employed on a temporary basis during the calving season.

The facilities on this farm are truly first-class.

The Browne family migrated from near Skibbereen in West Cork more than 70 years ago and moved their herd of cows by train to the railway station nearby in Killeagh.

The family have steadily increased the herd size over the years and are currently milking 820 cows and carrying more than 300 replacements.

Tom Browne said: “Fourteen years ago, a 60-point rotary parlour was installed to milk around 300 cows, and since then, numbers have been gradually increased, primarily from home-bred replacements.”

This is a spring calving herd, and milk is supplied to Dairygold Co-op.

The most recent breakdown for the herd make-up is as follows: 287 first lactation, 235 second lactation, and 320 third lactation.

Milk is produced off grass, and they make their own pit silage, using a Claas self-propelled harvester.

This year, they made 133 hectares of first cut silage, and plan to cut another 100 hectares as second silage.

Simon Browne added: “We will also make some third and fourth cut silage, depending on grass growth.”

They also make some baled silage from surplus grass.

To ensure adequate forage supplies, irrespective of weather conditions, the family also has a substantial acreage of forage maize grown for their stock.

According to Simon, they grew 60 hectares of maize last year, and a similar area is planted this year.

They use a local contractor, Diarmuid Curtin, to do this work.

Simon said: “We have a young herd at present, and are restricted by quota this year. After 2015, the focus will be on increased milk solids per cow and per hectare, depending on milk and feed prices.”

Average yield is around 6,000 litres per cow, with milk solids at about 440 kg.

At present, cows are averaging 23 litres per day, at 4.16% butterfat and 3.46% protein, with a cell count of only 180. Dairy nuts (14% protein, primarily to carry Cal Mag) are fed in the parlour, while dry cows and other stock are on a Total Mixed Ration diet (they use a Keenan Mech-fiber 360 mixer wagon).

Michael Browne is responsible for feeding the stock and machinery operations.

The TMR ration is formulated using advice from Liam Leahy of Dairygold Co-op; Fergal O’Mahony, their Teagasc adviser; and Jerry Crowley from Glenbower Veterinary Group.

Feed ingredients in this cost-effective diet include top-quality grass silage, forage maize (grown within drawing distance), barley, straw, soya, and pre-mixes etc depending on the age and type of stock being fed.

Herd health is seen as very important, and the annual programme include cows vaccination to protect against BVD, IBR, lepto, rotavirus and salmonella.

The replacement heifers are done for BVD, IBR, lepto and salmonella.

Lameness is managed via hoof paring and foot bathing. The calves are wormed and the cows and heifers are dosed for fluke and worms as recommended by their vet.

Reproductive management

Getting cows pregnant is an important part of dairy farming long-term success and profitability.

The Browne family has been using only ABS Ireland AI semen for the last two years.

In addition they have also availed of the ABS reproductive management system.

George Tanner, their local ABS representative, said: “This takes a systematic approach to heat detection, AI breeding, synchronisation, and data management service, through professional technicians.”

Cahair McAllister, the ABS technician, is on the farm for six weeks during the main breeding season, and does heat detection twice per day.

Results have been first-class.

Tom Browne said: “The bulls we have used during 2014 were Classic (ZLC), McCormick (GJM), Levi (MWL), Angel (KAZ), and Victorious (HSV).

“In selecting all these sires, EBI, fertility, milk and protein were the most important criteria for us.”

The average EBI last year from these bulls was 223, milk 76, and fertility 107.

Ciaran O’Shea, dairy product specialist with ABS Ireland, said: “The bull Classic adds strength to cows along with having good volumes of milk and good protein, both kgs and percentage.

He went on to say that McCormick “breeds easy-care cows that mature with each lactation and excel for durability and fertility while producing high solids”.

According to O’Shea: “Levi is a popular sire with our customers, and is used to increase milk without suffering any losses in daughter fertility or milk solids.”

As regards Angel, this a sire used to boost fat and protein percentage along with daughter fertility, while maintaining good volumes of milk.

Victorious was bred by the Hanrahans from Mitchelstown, and is “an outcross sire with moderate milk who will boost butterfat and protein percentage, along with daughter fertility and durability.”

According to ABS Ireland, the herd EBI as of April 28, 2014 was 131, with milk at 47 and fertility at 64.

For second lactation cows, it was at 148, milk at 52, and fertility at 72. So progress is being made and prospects for the future look good.

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