Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 21 January 2017

Lyons showcases best practice in winter milking

Published 02/09/2015 | 02:30

Alan Fahey
Alan Fahey

UCD's research farm at Lyons opened the doors of its new €2.5m dairy facility to the public for the first time yesterday when the Irish Holstein Friesian breeders held an open day there.

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Researchers intend to use a new demonstration herd to showcase best practice for winter milk producing operations.

The 60 cow herd has an average EBI of €221, placing it in the top 1 to 2pc of herds in the country.

Currently, it is on target to produce 8,000l of milk from 1.5t of meal with close to 11t/ha of grassmatter being utilised.

"We were after a particular breakdown in the EBI where the cows' production index was as good as their fertility index," said Dr Karina Pierce, dairy lecturer in UCD.

"That actually rules out a lot of high EBI animals that rely on very high fertility sub-indexes to keep their overall EBI score very high."

She hopes the demo farmlet at Lyons Estate will increase it's already impressive annual grass growth to 17t/ha of drymatter (DM).

"We've only been using half the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) that we could on the area up to now because we are operating at a very low stocking rate.

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"As a result the indexes are sub-optimal here at 2 for P and K.

"The stocking rate is going to increase to 3.4LU/ha and the fertiliser input will also increase, so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to increase our current annual grass growth from 14tDM/ha to 17tDM/ha," she said.

Concentrates

One of the key projects will be the examination of the EBI formula to see what needs to be changed to make it more relevant to year-round milk production enterprises.

"We often hear that supplementing cows with concentrates does not work, but that's only true for certain genotypes and certain situations," said UCD animal science lecturer, Dr Alan Fahey.

"There are many farms where the type of animal and amount of land available for grazing justifies feeding extra meals."

However, he added that the EBI formula was still the best starting point for any research or breeding programme.

"The EBI is still excellent for the majority, but maybe not for the guy with 9,000kg cows.

"We don't need to reinvent the EBI - it is still the best source of genetic information on animals that we have.

"But, in the same way that they have different indexes for different dairy production systems in the US, we can tweak the weightings of certain traits in the current formula to suit higher input systems," he said.

However, Dr Fahey admitted that it would take years for the results of this research to filter into a new index.

He said that traits such as SCC resistance and lameness should have higher weightings, especially as herds get bigger and cows need to travel longer distances and stand around for longer.

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