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Dairy, Ireland

Dairy – Eoghan McCarthy, Ireland

The focus of this case study is to show how a farming family can run a successful and sustainable milk production enterprise while maintaining good animal welfare standards and improving the surrounding natural environment.

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Key areas of good practice
Husbandry:

Good calf health is a high priority and shortly after birth (within 2 hours) all calves are fed a minimum of 3 litres of colostrum from the dam. This procedure aims to provide the calf with a sufficient quantity of maternal antibodies to ensure adequate immune support for the first 3 – 4 weeks of life. Good calf–care routines have resulted in calf mortality rates of 2%.

Through effective management, breeding and infrastructure, dairy cow mobility is maintained to a high standard throughout the herd. Providing well maintained tracks to pasture, good floor hygiene and housing conditions, high nutrition standards as well as a strict regime of foot–bathing, has helped the farm control this potentially chronic condition.

Genetic Selection:

The herd is achieving a calving interval of 366 days and a herd replacement rate of 18 – 20%. The herd currently has an Economic Breeding Index (EBI) of €171, which places the herd among the top 100 dairy herds in Ireland ranked on EBI.

Food Safety:

Eoghan has adopted a milking routine to focus on hygiene and maintaining udder health, this ensures that the milk meets the necessary quality parameters and animal health is protected. In 2012, the average Somatic Cell Count (SCC) was 101,000/ml and the Total Bacteria Counts (TBC) averaged 14,000/ml.

Input Costs:

Eoghan has carefully managed his breeding programme to synchronise calving and grass growth, with 80% of the herd calving in a six week period beginning in early February. This allows the dairy herd to produce milk mainly from a diet of grass which is supplemented with 650kg of concentrates per cow.

Livestock Disease:

The farm is a member of a Herd Health Programme which helps monitor health, fertility and productivity, with the emphasis being on improving individual animal immunity levels and reducing disease incidence.

All dairy replacements are bred on the farm, avoiding the risk of introducing new diseases onto the farm by purchasing cows or heifers with sub–clinical health problems.

Milk recording takes place every seven weeks and the data generated provides information on individual cow health (i.e. SCC) and productivity (milk yield and quality). In 2012 the herd produced an average yield of 6,280 litres of milk over a 262 day lactation period. Average milk solids produced per cow was 491kg comprising of 3.48% protein and 4.12% butterfat.

Energy Efficiency:

Eoghan has fitted a plate heat exchanger which removes large amounts of heat from the milk in a very short time saving costs and energy.

Water Use Efficiency:

Eoghan uses water from the plate cooler to wash down the parlour after milking, reducing the farm's water requirements and waste water.

Soil Fertility:

Eoghan undertakes soil analysis on the farm every 3 years to monitor soil PH, phosphate and potash levels which enables accurate assessments of fertiliser requirements and reduces the risk of environmental contamination and input losses.

Habitat & Species Conservation:

The farm participates in the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) which provides funding to allow the farm to undertake a programme of environmental measures.

High Conservation Value Land:

A section of the farm has been designated a Special Protection Area (SPA).