John & Brendan Walsh - About The Farm
John and Brendan Walsh & family were the 2021 Clover & Sustainability winners in the Grassland Farmer of the Year Competition. They farm in Ballylooby, Co. Tipperary, milking 153 cows along with replacements & beef animals.
The Walsh family, along with the Teagasc Grass10 team and local Teagasc Advisors, hosted a farm walk on Tuesday, 4th October. This was a very informative event with the Walshs giving their own experience of the impact that embracing new technologies such as clover, Low Emissions Slurry Spreading, Protected Urea and enhancing & planting trees and hedgerows can have on overall farm sustainability.
Grass 10 aim to increase the amount of grass eaten to 10 T DM/ha in a sustainable way and achieve 10 grazings per paddock per year. It also aims to increase the level of pasture measurement, incorporate clover into swards and improve nutrient management on farm. Factors which are important in Grass 10 are; nutrient management soil fertility, grazing management, grazing infrastructure, reseeding, clover.
About the farm
The Walsh’s farm over 80 hectares of their own land with 58 of those on the milking block, and some additional rented land. The land is dry and so they sometimes struggle in the summer with drought being the main issue. The Milking Platform is 58 hectares with the yard in the middle which makes it easier for the cows as they don’t ever have too far to walk. Paddocks vary in size from 4 to 7 acres.
Meal usage was 740 kg/cow last year, 2021 and will be ahead of that this year expected around 800 kg/cow, it is a goal to reduce this figure in the future, but Brendan is happy with this year’s figure considering the extremely dry weather during the summer months.
Walsh’s Farm – Sustainability Farmer of the Year 2021
Owned land: 80.2 ha; Leased land: 21.8 ha
Natural forestry: 2.4 ha
Milking platform: 57.9 ha
Milk platform stocking rate: 2.64 cows/ha
Outside blocks: 44.1 ha
Whole farm stocking rate: 2.3 LU/ha
Meal usage: 740 kg/cow. 2022 YTD: 750 kg/cow
Soil type: Free draining
Milk supplied: 525 kgMS/cow
Overall cows: 155 (EBI €184)
“We breed for a highly fertile cow ith high solids based on high percentages”
The Walsh’s are Focusing on fat and protein percentage and maintenance in their breeding for the last number of years. Their bull team this year was 0.3% for fat and 0.2% for protein.
Fat and Protein
Fat was 4.49% in 2021, up on 4.37% in 2020, and Brendan expects this figure to be higher again this year, 2022.
Protein in 2020 was 3.81% and was similar in 2021, he expects it to be similar again in 2022.
From 2016 to 2020 the Walsh’s made good progress in terms of protein percentages, and since 2020 have focused more on fat and have been making progress.
Brendan says that breeding and grass management are the two main factors to get the protein percentage up to that level.
The calving interval on Walsh’s farm is 387 days. This figure begins at calving, it’s important to have cows coming out of calving and into breeding in good condition. Submission rates have been in 90’s for past few years with conception rates in high 60’s, at 69% this year. Their six week in calf rate is at the highest it’s ever been this year on the farm at 92%.
Dairy Herd performance Report, January – December 2021
Fat % to end December 2021: 4.49
Protein % to end December 2021: 3.74
The Walsh’s have a very strong focus on percentages of fat and protein.
“You can manage grass to get litres, but percentages you have to breed in. We focus strongly on percentages, and put effort into finding the right bulls."
Grassland management – The most important factor is regular measuring, Brendan measures the grass every five days during the summer months.
Soil fertility – They soil sample every year on the farm as clover is heavy on K and it’s important to keep an eye on that, they get great data and information form this and a real picture of what might be changing so they can make adjustments the following year.
Clover – The Walsh’s have only sprayed 135kg N on the milking platform this year and grown 11 tonnes, so that is a big advantage of clover. It also recovers very well after a drought. There is one disadvantage which the Walsh’s have dealt with, which is bloat, however by taking the proper precautions and adding straw or fibre to the diet along with bloat oil that can be managed.
Other useful information
Grazing management to prevent bloat