Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Commitment to the Pure Friesian sees Tipp man breed country's top home-bred cows

Michael Spillane with some of his award winning Pure Friesian Herd which will be showcased at the Pure Friesian Open Day on the farm near Fethard on July 19
Michael Spillane with some of his award winning Pure Friesian Herd which will be showcased at the Pure Friesian Open Day on the farm near Fethard on July 19

Martin Ryan

GRAZING contentedly among the dairy herd on Michael Spillane’s farm in South Tipperary is one of the top Pure Friesian cows in the land.

Ten-year-old Mountain Tormore Aileen EX945E the highest classified home-bred Friesian cow in Ireland in 2016 and the second highest home bred EBI cow in the country, leads one of the most prolific cow families in the 78 cow herd at Tullamaine, near Fethard in Tipperary.

In eight lactations to date, the daughter of Mountain Lord Aileen EX92 3E — which achieved IHFA Diamond sta­tus — has produced over 5,000 kgs of milk solids and has contributed significantly to the herd average production last year of 8,157 kgs milk, at 3.80pc fat, 3.63pc protein, and 607 kgs milk solids.

It is a formidable achieve­ment in a Pure Friesian Herd. And it is a breeding line to which Michael is firmly com­mitted, and has developed into an exceptional success story since taking over the management from his father, Sean, 22 years ago.

The Mountain Pure herd had been bred to Friesian AI for a number of years. It is a legacy which Dovea AI’s com­mitment to the breed, under the management of the late Dermot Cahill, delivered to farmers in this area over the decades.

This helped make it the heartland of the Pure Friesian and as a youngster with a keen interest in the cows Michael can recall helping with the sketching of calves for regis­trations.

Jack Spillane (17), who is actively involved with the Mountain Pure Friesian Herd, pictured with Mountain Tormore Aileen EX945E, the highest classified home-bred Friesian cow in Ireland
Jack Spillane (17), who is actively involved with the Mountain Pure Friesian Herd, pictured with Mountain Tormore Aileen EX945E, the highest classified home-bred Friesian cow in Ireland

He was very happy to con­tinue with the development of the Pure Friesian breed on the farm.

“The yield, excellent fer­tility with a regular calving pattern in an easily managed herd, great longevity, and a good cull cow at the end,” are the qualities he lists as influ­encing his attachment to the original Friesian bloodline which has also served him well with strong demand each year for about 30 bulls for breeding.

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Three generations of the Spillane family are all involved in the 135ac holding made up of four separate parcels with a stocking rate on the milking platform of 1.2 cows/acres.

In addition to Michael and his wife, Sandra and their fam­ily — Jack (17), Lucy (15), Nell (14), Heather (12), Emily (10) — Michael’s parents, Sean and Breda, continue to maintain a strong interest in the herd.

The multi-award winning, Mountain Pure Friesian Herd, has been chosen by the IHFA for showcasing at the Pure Friesian Open Day to be held on the farm on Wednesday July 19.

The herd is completely home bred and is build around the offspring of half a dozen cow families — the Aileen, Rosie, Petula, Averil, Dixie, and Gloria families make up most of the herd.

IHFA Services have been availed of with Classification first adopted in 2005 which Michael has described as “an important management tool from which to learn more about developing the herd and making improvements generation after generation”.

He adds: “To me there is an educational benefit to Classi­fying and it is so important to focus on correct udders and good feet and legs”.

This is reflected in the 77pc of the herd now classified in the top two grades on Confor­mation, VG/EX in addition, to 14 cows scored Good Plus (GP).

Fertility performance is a key Friesian genetic strength. The Spillane herd has a a calving interval of 367 days with lactation length of 313 days. Almost half of the herd is now made-up of cows in their fourth lactation or older, reflecting the breed’s inher­ent survival and longevity qualities.

This mature cow group av­eraged 9,161kgs milk at 3.74pc fat, 3.63pc protein, with 675 kgs milk solids and a calving interval average of 361 days, with SCC of 66.

Mountain Glenalbyn Rosie EX93 5E is the highest classi­fied Rosie family member in the herd.

She has also produced over 5,000 kgs milk solids in eight lactations and has an average lifetime protein of 3.70pc.

Her dam, Mountain Franz Rosie EX, is the great matri­arch of the Rosie family with 36 registered female descend­ants.

The recognition of her value and demand for her genetics was such that 14 sons were sold as breeding bulls.

A son, grandson and great grandson of Rosie all went into AI in 2016, her last year in the herd in her twentieth year.

These were Mountain Basil 11 (FR4079), Mountain Glenal­byn 7 ET (FR2430) and Moun­tain Martel 24 (FR4003).

Mountain IDS Petula EX93 7E recently attained the IHFA Diamond Award for surpass­ing 3,000kgs of protein. She is currently in her 12th lactation.

Mountain Bounty Dixie ET EX93 5E recently calved on her eighth lactation, 23 days short of a 365 day calving interval. She was Champion Pure Frie­sian Cow in-milk at the IHFA All Ireland Awards 2016.

Production cow

Mountain Frosty Averil EX93 3E is a tremendous production cow with over 47,000 kgs of milk produced in five lacta­tions. She surpassed 10,000 kgs of milk produced in two consecutive lactations and has an average lifetime protein of 3.56pc.

AI bulls that have had a positive impact in the herd through the years include Blackisle Glenalbyn, Holwerda Torello, Barrowvale Martell 12, Piet Adema, Tittenser Hylke, Mr Frosty, Dovea Jubilaris and Lakemead Rancher.

Grassland management is a big priority on the farm with the emphasis of growing and utilising as much high quality, leafy grassland as possible throughout the year.

Limestone soil is a charac­teristic of the hinterland and allied to good management allows the herd to remain at grass for an expansive graz­ing year.

Two cuts of pit silage are made per year as the bulk of the winter diet with baled silage harvested when there is surplus cover on paddocks.

Herd health is another top priority with prevention the preferred approach through a regular vaccination pro­gramme against BVD, Lepto, IBR and salmonella.

“Cows must calve regularly every year, have correct func­tional type, produce plenty of milk, go back in-calf easily and remain as trouble-free as pos­sible throughout the year” says Michael when asked about his ideal cow.


The Mountain Pure Friesian Herd has earned many awards in the Pure Friesian club and Tipperary/Waterford Friesian Club competitions in recent years. These include:

  1. 2011 — 1st Junior Section, Highest Protein Cow, Highest Protein Herd
  2. 2012 — Highest Protein Cow, Highest Protein Herd
  3. 2013 —Highest Protein Cow, Highest Protein Herd
  4. 2014 —1st Intermediate Section, Highest Protein Cow, Highest Protein Heifer
  5. 2015 — Highest Protein Herd
  6. 2016 — Highest Protein Cow, 2nd Senior Section

The herd has represented the Tipperary/Waterford club in the National herds competition twice and finished second in the Spring section last year.

Michael says being involved with the clubs has helped the herd’s pro­gression. The Pure Friesian club has recognised the herd performance with numerous prizes in the Club annual production awards over the years. The herd won the Pure Friesian club Herds Competition last year.

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