'It was very difficult to get rid of the Jersey bull calves'
No: Patrick Kelly, Killygordon, Co Donegal - 283 cows
Published 03/02/2016 | 02:30
"I'm never going back," says well-known Donegal farmer, Patrick Kelly, of his three-year experiment with crossbreeding on his 283 cow herd.
The farm is located near Killygordon in the heart of the Finn valley in east Donegal, where rainfall levels are double those on the east coast, forcing Mr Kelly to aim for a cow that can efficiently turn both grass and meal into milk.
Last year the herd averaged 5,800 litres at 4.4pc fat and 3.7pc protein. The farm produced 13t/ha of grass drymatter, at a stocking rate of 3LU/ha, and the cows received 900kg of meal.
With an average EBI in the cows of €190, Mr Kelly's herd is in the top 200 in the country, and he has already sold three bull calves into AI, with options out-standing on another two.
He tried crossbreeding for three consecutive years on his mainly Holstein herd at the end of the 1990s.
"In 1995 I spent six months working on dairy farms in New Zealand, where I was exposed to a lot of new ideas - crossbreeding, 100pc spring calving, and 100pc grass systems.
"I came home to a situation where we were producing liquid milk, which was very profitable in the 1980s, but with the deregulation of the milk market, that all changed.
"So when I got home, a lot of changes started. We switched to a spring calving set-up, and we started to look at ways to improve the fertility of our Holstein cows.