Agriland recently visited the dairy farm of Pat and Nora Flynn near Kilworth in County Cork for this week’s Dairy Focus. The Coolmohan herd, which is home to around 100 spring-calving cows, was the number one economic breeding index (EBI) herd in the country just a few years ago. The herd’s current average EBI is €238, placing it now in the top 1% for EBI. The farm places a major focus on breeding, which has resulted in an average production of 7,800L at 4.62% fat and 3.77% protein, which is over 650kg of milk solids. Around 156 cows were calved down this year, and the excess stock is sold in a yearly sale, along with some breeding bulls.
The calving season is almost over on the farm, with just three cows left to calve when Agriland visited, and all of these are due to do so in the next week or so. Fertility performance from the herd can only be described as excellent. At the end of breeding last year, there was only one cow empty. Due to the current weather conditions, cows are still housed on the farm and are currently being fed on zero-grazed grass from the silage ground. Pat said this is very helpful, but he would prefer to have the cows out at grass to prevent any possible bulling injuries from occurring in the shed. The running of the farm is very much a team effort, with Pat and Nora’s children helping on the farm too.
The Coolmohan herd originally started out as a British Friesian-type herd, but Holstein genetics have since been introduced with a 50:50 cow being Pat’s ideal cow. An open day for the herd was held in 2016 at which time the herd’s protein was 3.72%, which Pat didn’t realise was so good. Since then, Pat has continued to try and improve the herd. Although protein was good, he wasn’t happy with the volume of milk or fat. He made the decision to introduce Holstein genetics to the herd and started crossbreeding, which resulted in improved fat and milk volumes, while protein levels were maintained. However, he still maintains his pure-bred herd status. Production from the herd increased from 6,000L/cow to 7,800L/cow.
Breeding is a huge focus on the farm, as mentioned, and Pat’s passion for breeding is evident. A combination of stock bulls and artificial insemination (AI) has been used on the herd for the last number of years. When it comes to culling on the farm, cows and heifers must meet strict criteria, with some of the heifers on offer in the sale having produced 8,000L at over 4% fat and 3.40% protein. To remain in the herd, however, each animal must be achieving over 3.70% protein. Everything in the herd is genotyped to ensure that all animals on the farm’s lineage can be determined. A compact calving season is achieved on the farm, with Pat noting that introducing the stock bulls along with using AI is key to this. During the breeding season, AI is used for the first two or three weeks, with stock bulls running with the cows on the weekends. Although all the bulls are fertility tested prior to the start of breeding, Pat believes this gives the bulls a chance to work and prevents any breaks from occurring in the calving season.
A major focus within the dairy sector is to improve the longevity of the national herd and increase the average number of lactations/cow. Within the Coolmohan herd, two cows have completed their 12th lactation and are freshly calved on their 13th. Pat places a focus on picking dams that pass on good butterfat and protein traits to their offspring, which has resulted in great figures being achieved by the herd. Like in many herds, a pet cow can be found, but on this farm, it can be clearly identified by a bell around the cow’s neck. The Coolmohan herd is set to sell 56 calved heifers and cows on April 15, with the average EBI of the lots on offer being €220, with a top EBI of €340 on offer. Lot 46, Coolmohan Petuala Yry (VG88) is a fourth lactation cow, that produced 7,343kg of milk.