Maximising Spring Breeding Potential in Laois
Alan Stephenson has 140 dairy cows and farms on a 33 hectare milking platform outside Mountmellick, Co. Laois. He has 110 spring calving and 30 winter calving cows on his farm and is a Glanbia milk supplier. Alan milk’s predominantly Friesian cows, with some Jersey and Norwegian Red and operates a relatively closed herd, rearing all his own replacement heifers.
Alan admits that calving is going very well at the moment. He states that, “we started calving in mid-January and currently 80 of the 110 spring calvers have calved. We are hoping that calving will be finished by the end of April. We would have had a poor calving in 2017, with a lot of empty cows. We have been working on this since then. We have seen the fruits of our endeavour in this year’s calving season as a result.”
With a significant increase in the number of calves born this year, Alan admits that last year’s breeding season was much more successful than 2016. “We had a difficult breeding season here on the farm in 2016, as there were a number of empty cows and late calvers. As a result we were concerned that this would negatively impact us in 2017,” said Alan.
Acknowledging a difficult breeding season in 2016, Alan was determined to get the herd back on track. He made a few minor changes on the farm that have drastically improved his herd’s fertility. He states that, “we tend to have a mineral problem here more than anything. I think if we are growing more grass than we used to grow so we are probably not getting the same amount of minerals into the grass so that’s why we supplement.”
For this year’s breeding season, Alan plans to use AI for the first 8 weeks and introduce a stock bull after this.
Last spring we fed GAIN Spring Breeder which is a 14% Dairy Nut and have found that it worked extremely well. We saw higher conception rates right across the milking herd. Quality nutrition at this time of the year ensures that cows are performing well, bulling at the right time and they are maximising milk production. This has made a very positive impact on the farm.”
Glanbia Business Manager, Alan Gee states that, ‘due to the adverse weather conditions this spring the major challenge facing dairy farmers’ over the next 2 months is getting cows back in-calf. Reproductive efficiency is a function of nutrition intake, management, output and genetics. A high submission rate together with high conception rates is essential.’ He further explains that ‘before and during the breeding season it’s essential to ensure the nutrient intake of the cow is adequate to meet her needs. By feeding GAIN Spring Breeder you are meeting the cows’ energy requirements, building the immune system and optimising fertility performance.”
Alan has built a very strong relationship with his Glanbia Business Manager Alan Gee. “He’s available to take a call all the time. He frequently visits the farm to monitor progress. He takes silage samples, and we speak regularly about our fertilizer and nutrition plans and any other technical queries that I may have.” Alan feels that the biggest benefit of having Alan Gee on hand is his technical expertise: “No matter what situation you find yourself in, there is always a solution. Between myself and Alan, we carefully devise a strategy that will have a positive impact on my herd. As a result the herd, especially the calves, are now performing much better.”
Future Plans on the farm
Alan doesn’t plan to change the cow numbers drastically: “At present I have the grazing block completely maxed out. If the numbers change, I’m going to have to look at getting extra land beside me or if this isn’t feasible look into zero grazing.” Alan explained.
Alan has just completed an extension onto the cow shed, adding in extra cubicles and new tank, mostly done for slurry storage rather than accommodation but it has made the winter considerably easier.