• I had always taken heifer rearing seriously. However, the launch of the Gain Programme encouraged me to look at this issue in a more proactive manner
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    “I had always taken heifer rearing seriously. However, the launch of the Gain Programme encouraged me to look at this issue in a more proactive manner. For example, we are now putting the troughs in with the calves at the week old stage and will continue offering meals right through to weaning and beyond. But the issue that struck home with me most forcefully was that of colostrum quality. I have always followed a policy of getting the recommended volume of colostrum into calves as soon as they hit the ground. But I was totally in the dark when it came to gauging the quality of what I was actually offering them.
    “That has all changed courtesy of me purchasing a colostrometer prior to the start of this year’s calving season. It is a very simple device, which allows my team to quickly assess the quality of the colostrum produced by each cow. Only the best quality colostrums are then offered to the newborns.”

    Graham Swanton, Miletree Farm, Clonmel Co. Tipperary
  • I use the weight tape as recommended in the Gain Heifer Rearing Programme on a regular basis. It is a very handy management aid, which I keep in my pocket at all times. This year’s calves have been achieving daily liveweight gains of around 0.8 kilos. I think that the development of the new heifer rearing programme is a tremendous step forward
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    “I am confident of developing opportunities to sell breeding stock over the coming years.
    “The top young bull in the herd currently has an EBI of 290 and one of his herdmates was recently bought by Progressive Genetics as part of its sire development programme. It goes without saying that giving my heifers the best possible start is crucially important. And I think that the development of the new heifer rearing programme is a tremendous step forward in this regard. This year I have closely followed the meal feeding rates recommended therein and have seen a tremendous difference in the scope of the calves. I also use the ‘Weight Tape’ on a regular basis. It is a very handy management aid, which I keep in my pocket at all times. This year’s calves have been achieving daily liveweight gains of around 0.8 kilos.”

    Pat Walsh, Wellingtonbridge, Co. Wexford
  • I am totally committed to achieving a first calving date of 24 months and accurately assessing the growth rates of young stock is crucially important
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    “We have the scope to increase milk output beyond 2015 and have plans to introduce 35 to 40 additional, home bred, heifers over the next year or so. For this reason, it is so important that the youngstock coming through are reared well. I am totally committed to achieving a first calving date of 24 months. And, in this regard, the Gain Feeds/Alltech rearing programme represents a vitally important management tool. Accurately assessing the growth rates of young stock is crucially important. In my own case I use the weighing service provided by ICBF. It only costs a few cents per animal. However, it provides me with a comprehensive report on the specific weights of individual heifers throughout the rearing period. I can then assess the progress they are making relative to the targets set down within the programme and tweak my feeding practises accordingly.”

    Brian Holohan, Kilkenny City
  • We have also found that it is much more cost effective to encourage the growth of our younger heifers, by feeding them more meal, rather than play catch up when they are older
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    “We are effectively running a two herd system. What starts out as a Spring calver will remain so throughout her life and the same principle holds for the Autumn calving group. As a result, seasonal calving is the name of the game across both groups, which makes the attainment of a 24 month calving date so important with all our heifers We invested in a Lely Calm computerised calf feeding system a number of years ago. It is programmed to wean our calves at 77 days of age. What the new heifer rearing programme has brought home to us so effectively is the need to offer concentrates at a very early age. This, in turn, encourages rumen development, which is so important in determining a young animal’s ability to grow and develop. We have also found that it is much more cost effective to encourage the growth of our younger heifers, by feeding them more meal, rather than play catch up when they are older.”

    Allen Smyth, Windgap, Co. Kilkenny
  • I'm totally committed to calving heifers at 24 months. It makes sense in terms of minimising the rearing costs involved and maximising the long term production potential from heifers once they join the milking group.
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    “I am totally committed to calving heifers at 24 months. It makes sense in terms of minimising the rearing costs involved and maximising the long term production potential from heifers once they join the milking group. James also acknowledges that calving heifers at 24 months, as opposed to 30 or 36 months, allows him to improve the genetic merit of his herd significantly faster. For all of these reasons, he is quick to confirm the value of the new Heifer Rearing Programme. I fully endorse all of the targets laid down within the programme. And I commend the work put in by both Gain Feeds and Alltech for developing what constitutes an invaluable management tool for every Irish dairy farmer.”

    James Murphy, Glenville Co. Cork