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The Dairy Edge Podcast Archive

Episode 61

Kevin Downing from ICBF joins us this week to with his top tips for sire selection for the upcoming breeding season.

He suggests key traits to consider are high EBI cows with early calving date. For sire selection whether using daughter proven or genomically selected sires, farmers should select high EBI bulls with high sub-indices for areas of importance for herd.

Higher EBI offspring will produce more profit with each €1 additional EBI = €2 additional profit.

Kevin explains the recommendation around the number of bulls has increased with a recommendation for up to 8 bulls for a 100-150 cow herd.  He considers the number of straws required to produce sufficient replacements, estimating on average 4 straws are used to produce 1 heifer.

Finally, Kevin recommends that we focus on the heifers in the herd as they are typically genetically elite compared with the cows in the herd. Focus should be on heifers calving down between 22-26 months as they will last longer in the herd and produce milk solids across their lifetime.

For more information: Sire Advice Help Document 1 (PDF)

Episode 62

2018 Grass 10 champion John McNamara joins Emma-Louise Coffey to talk through his farming career and some of the people who have helped him along the way.

John explains that the farm has been in the McNamara family for three generations and he considers the changes that have taken place over the last 20 years since he returned home farming. 

At that time the McNamaras were milking between 50-60 cows on a 25 ha platform. John and his wife Olive now milk 250 cows on a land base of 116 ha. John explains that expansion happened on the basis of the ability to grow grass as the main source of feed.

The McNamaras won Farmyard of the Year in 2009, 40 years on from his father winning a similar competition that recognises farms general neatness and work organisation. John explains that his parents instilled a strong work ethic as well as pride of place in their farm as divers that saw them being recognised on both occasions.

John’s community spirit is evident throughout his farming career being involved in Macra and with his local community, and in particular the GAA.   He highlights the importance of work, life balance having an outlet away from the farm. John believes dairy farming is a socially and financially rewarding career and offers a great way of life for farmers and their families.

Episode 63

In part 2 of our interview with John McNamara, we find out about the grassland management on John's dairy farm.

John explains that the grazing season starts in August of the previous year. He starts extending his grazing rotation and building farm cover in August, hitting peak farm cover in later September and closing the farm from at an appropriate cover to carry grass into the spring.

He explains that the farm is heavy meaning the shoulder periods of the grazing season can be a challenge. John accepts this challenge each year by employing all the grazing technologies such as on/off grazing and back fencing.

When considering KPIs for grazing, John thinks figures like 10 grazings per paddock are really important for him and believes if you can get off to a good start during the spring rotation, you are on the right track.

Turning our attention to the Grass 10 open day on his farm in Knockainey on April 24th, John welcomes all farmers and their families to the event. On the day, we can expect to get an insight to excellence in grassland on the McNamara family farm.

Episode 64

Dairy specialist Stuart Childs joins Emma-Louise Coffey to explain the various steps to optimise breeding performance for your farm. 

Stuart identifies 3-week submission rate as the most important KPI for farmers to target. 

He considers the length of time to mating start date which is anywhere between 10 and 20 days away. Stuart recommends tail painting the whole herd and addressing cows who fail to cycle. 

Many farmers have changed the calving date on their farms following the difficult spring in 2018.  While 2018 presented a particularly difficult spring, Stuart recommends farmers don't make a dramatic change to their normal calving start date based on one year!

Stuart also discussed all the heat detection aids available from visual observation to tail paint, scratch cards, teaser bulls to the more recent technology aids, explaining that all heat detection aids work but if they aren't hitting targets, he recommends you look to the cow and also the detection method to see how you can improve. 

Finally, Stuart reminds us of synchronisation protocols that can be used routinely for heifers and anoestrus cows and he reminds us to be very clear on the protocol to ensure each step is taken at the correct time.

For more information: Breeding Management

Episode 65

The ICBF's Andrew Cromie and Siobhan Ring join the Dairy Edge podcast this week to discuss the new Dairy Beef Index (DBI). 

Firstly Andrew explains the DBI is a breeding index that will promote high quality beef cattle from the dairy herd with minimal consequences to calving difficulty and gestation length in dairy cows.

Siobhan explains that the DBI has a role in dairy herds after breeding for replacements using the EBI. She also explains the ranking of bulls within the DBI as it ranks beef bulls for use in the dairy herd for calving and carcass traits.

Finally, Andrew explains the DBI has an important role to play in the Irish agricultural industry, creating a calf that is saleable for dairy farmers and of value to beef farmers in terms of carcass quality. Furthermore, Andrew explains we must protect our dairy industry and avoid bobby calf industries that are in operation in other countries

For more information:


Episode 66

Dairy farmer Mike Bermingham joins Emma-Louise Coffey to take us on his journey of career change from construction and part-time beef farming to becoming a new entrant dairy farmer in 2013.

Mike returned home to farm full-time in 2009 and acknowledged he had a big asset in his farm of land, yet it was providing no income.

In 2010 he began grass measuring in order to quantify the amount of grass grown on the farm. This has allowed Mike to get a good handle on the level of grass grown on the farm and identify underperforming paddocks. Mike is consistently growing 14 tonnes DM with the exception of 2018 which was 11.5 tonnes DM. Soil fertility is optimum for pH, P and K.

When considering what else he did prior to milking to put him in the best position for success, Mike said he joined a really good discussion group and also credits the Greenfield farm in Kilkenny and the Shinagh farm for demonstrating start ups, what works and what doesn't work.

Looking back at the progress over the last 10 years, Mike is hitting all of the dairy KPIs; fat and protein %, 6 week calving rate, grass utilised. 

Passing on his wisdom to others considering dairy, Mike explains that farmers must start with the basics, the parlour, cubicles, roads and water.  Additionally, surround yourself with good people, get help making a 5-year plan, identify a mentor and make sure you are in a good discussion group.

Episode 67

Head of Grassland Science Michael O’Donovan and Grassland PhD researcher Tomas Tubritt are this week's guests on the Dairy Edge podcast to discuss the topic of reseeding.

Firstly, Michael talks through the benefits of reseeding, primarily transforming swards from partial perennial ryegrass swards to 100% perennial ryegrass swards leading to higher levels of grass production, improved quality and graze outs while renewed swards will also respond greater to fertiliser. 

Michael explains that reseeding costs €750/ha which is a significant investment but also the return on investment is recouped in 18th months. Furthermore, he explains the first 11 months are crucial to the success of reseeded swards.

Tomas sets a target of 8% of the farm annually which means each paddock should be grazed every 14/15 years. Tomas explains that the new varieties being introduced to the Pasture Profit Index will out-compete older varieties.

In order to identify paddocks for reseeding, Michael explains that ideally farmers will make an informed decision based on grass measurement and knowledge of poorest performing paddocks but where these records are unavailable farmers should be filling in the Teagasc Grass 10 Grazing Charts which identifies the number of grazings, the paddock that achieves the least grazings need to be reseeded.

For more information: Pocket Manual for Reseeding

For part two of our conversation with Micheal O’Donovan and Tomas Tubritt, they talk us through the reseeding process step by step.

Micheal explains the starting point is to identify the paddock or farm area that you intend on reseeding. 

When considering the methods of reseeding, Tomas explains there is no difference between individual methods, but the common methods in Ireland include ploughing, minimum cultivation, discing and stitching in.

In terms of fertiliser strategy, Michael advises anyone who is ploughing to complete a soil test once the soil is inverted. Standard fertiliser is 3/4 bags of 10-10-20 and 2 tonne lime per acre. 

When selecting seed, Tomas explains farmers need to select on quality, seasonal growth (spring and autumn) and heading date within 3-5 days of each other. 

Tomas also mentioned a new trait that is being investigated as part of his PhD research is grazing efficiency. This trait tends to favour tetraploid varieties due to their nature of higher leaf area and digestibility. 

Micheal recommends spraying with post emergent spray when the paddock is at a cover of 200-300 kg DM/ha and grazing at s cover of 700-1000 kg DM/ha. 

He explains that getting in at this light cover might mean that stock will only get 2/3 hours grazing in the paddock. He advises that the paddock is hit again in 14-15 days time. This management will lead to a successful reseed encouraging active growth and tillering.

For more information: Pocket Manual for Reseeding (PDF)

Episode 68

Animal Health expert Muireann Conneely joins Emma-Louise Coffey to discuss hoof health and the mobility of the national dairy herd.

Muireann makes reference to an ongoing trial where an average of 14% of the dairy herds examined have sub optimal hoof health.

Poor mobility and lameness causes stress and pain to cows as well as reduced milk production and overall farm profit. Milk yield is affected for up to 8 weeks prior to a dairy cow showing clinical signs of lameness. 

In order to prevent poor mobility and clinical lameness farmers should score cow mobility regularly, ensure roadways are in good condition and treat for lameness early.

Episode 69