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Saturday 3 December 2016

A strong focus on herd fertility

Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30

Typist: Mick Magan still loves to breed show-type Holsteins
Typist: Mick Magan still loves to breed show-type Holsteins

Mick Magan doesn't come from a low-cost dairy background. Some 15 years ago, Bunacloy Holsteins was one of the top pedigree Holstein herds in the country with yields close to 10,000 litres per cow.

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That's part of the reason that the set-up isn't a classic low-cost spring calving system.

"We're a bit of a hybrid here because we do buffer-feed the cows maize silage, and maintain a herd average of 7,000 litres. But costs are still at 20c/l or less," says Magan.

"I haven't gone the route of cross-breeding, and the herd is still a mainly Holstein herd.

"But there has been a big switch in emphasis to making sure that our cows are fertile.

"I can see the difference first-hand because I still keep a couple of really highly bred Holsteins out of the love for the whole pedigree breeding scene that I grew up with," he says.

"There's five or six cows there that I keep around the shed and bring out to shows.

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"One of them peaked at over 60 litres a day on her second calf last year, and yielded about 14,000 litres.

"She's classified VG89, but she does take longer to come back in heat, and I do have to watch her like a hawk. But that's ok, because I can give her plenty of attention.

"She's got a brutal EBI mainly because of her fertility. In fact, at €140 the herd doesn't have as high an EBI as many expect when they hear the output, but that's because I'm happy to ignore the top ranking bulls in favour of the ones that have good type.

"So I look at all the sub-indices, without losing sight of the fertility sub index. I don't let the heart over-rule the head," adds Magan.

"I know that the EBI is supposed to do all the sorting for you, but I don't see it as a chore. But it must make me a semen salesman's worst nightmare!" he laughs.

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