Agriland recently visited the Ging family farm just outside Portlaoise, Co. Laois, which played host to this year’s Irish Holstein Friesian Association’s (IHFA) open day. The farm, known as the Ballyclider herd, has a long history, with its pedigree registration dating back to 1980. Starting with just 16 cows in the 1970s, the herd has steadily grown over the years. Today, it consists of 190 cows, and around 150 calves are reared on the farm annually. The Ballyclider herd has gained a reputation for producing high-quality dairy animals, attracting repeat customers who purchase surplus calved heifers and breeding bulls each year.
During the open day, a sale took place, and one of the lots, Ballyclider Cocarde 63, fetched an impressive price of 3,350gns. The event also saw the announcement of the winners of the National Herds Competition, which was judged by John Cousar from Scotland.
In terms of production, the Ballyclider herd has an average yield of 8,841kg of milk, with a fat content of 3.91% and protein content of 3.37%, based on a 305-day lactation period. This translates to 345kg of fat and 298kg of protein, resulting in a combined 644kg of milk solids for 2022. The herd’s average somatic cell count (SCC) in 2022 was 117,000 cells/ml, and over 1.5 million litres of milk were supplied to Tirlán.
The Ballyclider herd follows a split calving system, with approximately 65% of animals calving in the spring and the remaining 35% in the winter. During the winter months, production is maintained using conserved forages such as grass silage, maize silage, and wholecrop, along with concentrates in the parlour. All of the crops used on the farm during this period are grown on-site. When weather conditions allow, the farm takes advantage of its location in Co. Laois to extend the grazing period from early March until early November.
The breeding program at the Ballyclider herd focuses on good classification, feet and legs, and efficient milk production. Current sire selection criteria require all bulls used to have at least +400kg for milk and +40kg for solids. Recent bulls used include King Royal, King Doc, Pharoh, and Lustre P. Over the years, the herd has benefited from the influence of bulls such as Bartonhoo Prosperity, Barold Rock Seal, Ugela Bell, Bert, and Convincer.
Peter Ging, the owner of the Ballyclider herd, has been a lifelong member of the IHFA and was a founding member of the Laois Offaly club, which boasts a significant membership number. He has also competed in national competitions and won the national herds competition in 1997 and 2000 in the 50-80 cow or medium herd size category. Peter’s contributions to the IHFA led to his election as IHFA president in 2015, coinciding with the association’s 50th anniversary. He has previously served as IHFA chair and has regularly judged shows and herd competitions.
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