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National Heifer Rearing Winner Open Day

Over 250 farmers attended the open day on the farm of Jim and Teresa White, Cloneen, County Tipperary, yesterday Wednesday, 10 September, to learn more about dairy replacement heifer rearing. The Whites were the national winners of the 2013 Heifer Rearing Competition.

Speaking at the event, Pat Cahill, Volac said: “Excellence in heifer replacement rearing forms the foundation of the future potential in any dairy herd. This competition looks to reward farmers who have already adopted rearing strategies that maximise a heifer’s lifetime performance. It aims to encourage more farmers to pay close attention to good calf husbandry and heifer management from birth through to calving. Almost 100 farmers from around the country participated in the competition. This was shortlisted to five top class finalists and the Whites were the overall winners.”

Teagasc Dairy Specialist George Ramsbottom said: “Three key features of the success of the White family at heifer rearing are; how they manage the newborn calves, their focus on grassland management during the grazing season and their use of weight recording at critical times in the heifer rearing process.” All calves are fed approximately 4 litres of colostrum shortly after birth which ensures that they are well protected against disease in the critical early days of life. Both weanling and yearling heifers are rotationally grazed throughout the grazing season which ensures that most of their growth is achieved off the cheapest forage. Lighter heifers receive preferential treatment to ensure that they reach critical weight targets. The younger heifers are weighed in mid-August with the lightest group reared separately from then until the following spring. Older heifers are grouped by weight with lighter animals receiving more meals up to calving.

Local Teagasc adviser, Leonard Betts spoke about the Whites farming system, “It’s essentially a grass-based system of dairy farming. The Whites are rearing almost 60 heifers each year. This year all of the heifers are successfully in calf and over 90% will calve down in the first month of the calving season next spring. Longer term their plan is to milk 150 cows and to rear only enough replacements for their own herd’s requirements.”

Head of Dairy Knowledge Transfer with Teagasc, Tom O’Dwyer concluded, “The audience at the event included dairy farmers, agricultural students and professional heifer rearers from around the country. Over the next number of years, an increasing number of farmers are likely to focus on providing a heifer rearing service, allowing other dairy farmers to specialise in milk production. The White system of heifer rearing provides a template in best practice for all to follow.”

This event is the finale of the third National Heifer Rearing Competition held every second year. The Competition’s main sponsor is Volac in conjunction with Teagasc, The Irish Farmers’ Journal and in the North of Ireland with CAFRE and AFBI. The winning prize was an Urban Computerised Calf Feeding System with regional prize winners receiving 1 tonne each of Volac Easymix Calf Milk Replacer. The Regional Winners were:

    South West / West Declan Murphy, Newpark, Effin, Co. Limerick
    South John Walsh, Ahomonister, Timoleague, Co. Cork
    North East/Midlands Kevin Heavin, Shannon Harbour, Birr, Co. Offaly
    Northern Ireland Dennis & Mark Blelock, Crumlin, Armagh