'I'm going radical this year by using dairy bulls for AI'
"I'm a glutton for punishment," jokes Ger Dineen, before adding earnestly, "but if it was difficult to work, I wouldn't be doing it."
"I used to have a bull, but when the herd is calving as compactly as this, the bull just isn't able to handle the workload. I could have 20 cows in heat each week. The last bull I had hurt himself because he just got knackered. I have the yearling heifers running with the cows, because the bulls are in fattening in the shed. It means that I only have one group out grazing. About two weeks before the start of breeding on April 10, I bring in the cows into the shed, and shut out all the calves back into the field so they can't see each other.
"Each evening and each morning for the next four days I let in the calves for a drink before shutting them back out again. By the fourth day, the cows have calmed down and got used to the calves being separated, so I can let them back out to graze again. But it's important for the first two or three weeks to keep the calves out of sight of the cows while they are grazing.
"Every evening and every morning when I go out to bring the cows in for AI, I can separate the calves easily by using a creep gate that leads to the field."
"You may wonder why am I going to all this trouble? Because, separating the calves actually helps bring on the heats in the cows, and that all feeds into my early and compact calving.
"That ensures that I produce 0.98 calves per cow per year (the national average is 0.83) and a calving interval of 370 days (compared to the average 412 days). Teagasc estimate that it's worth an extra €10,000 a year to me.
"The most services that I will put into an animal is three. If she's not in calf after that she's gone. And the same with any animal that doesn't stay calving in February or March," explains Dineen.