Take it as red - and white - on this award-winning dairy farm
International show in 2000 put the Maunsells on the path to national acclaim
The Holstein-Friesian cows on Michael Maunsell's farm in Kerry have a distinctly different appearance to the majority of the breed in the county... and the rest of the country for that matter.
So impressed was judge Mark Logan of Clandeboye Estate, Northern Ireland, in the IHFA National Herds Competition 2018, that he selected Maunsell's entries for the Judges Special Recognition Award.
And it all started over a decade-and-a-half ago when Michael saw the red and white Holsteins at a breeders show in Brussels.
"I was very impressed by their overall power and strength and the very good udders they had. They were very impressive," he said.
That was 2000 and Michael, along with his family of Noreen, Alanna, TJ and Kate, were more accustomed to the more traditional black and white breed on their farm near Abbeydorney at that time. He had carried on with the successful herd established by his parents, Tom and Ellie, but once he saw the red and white cattle, he was hooked.
They fitted the type of dairy cow that he believed in "and my mind was immediately made up that I wanted to change".
"I suppose it is every man to his own and I liked the type of cow I saw in the red and white. I liked that extra little bit of power and strength that I saw in them," he says.
"The cow that I like is slightly more robust with plenty of strength in frame and overall structure, but they still have to have the ability to milk and I find that I am getting both with the strain of red and white that I have anyway."
More than 70pc of his 100-cow herd are now red and white, and the intention is to complete the change-over to one of the few completely red and white Holstein-Friesian pedigree herds in he country over the next few years.
"I am definitely going all out red and white, and when you see a full batch of red and white heifers in a field, they are unique, I suppose," he says.
The genetics are very similar to the black and white Holstein-Friesian.
They are registered in the same herdbook and yield is at least on par.
Michael's immaculately clean farmyard is the result of a recent rebuild which incorporates all facilities under one roof - a nod to the level of quality, dedication and passion devoted to the building of the Maunsell Pedigree Registered Herd, which has average production of over 9,000 litres with milk solids averaging in excess of 666 kgs/cow.
Achievements in conformation standards help provide for the level of output, with 77pc of the herd classified in the top two grades of Conformation VG/EX.
His passion for excellence in red and white breeding is borne out of his innate stockmanship skills.
Once the seed was sown, while attending the livestock show in Brussels in 2000, the future direction of his herd became a passionate pursuit.
Select purchases of impressive cow families in Germany and Holland along the way and the usage of red and white AI sires, carefully selected through intensive research and very often specially imported, has helped bring about the colourful transformation.
"My ideal cow is medium size, of good body depth, good feet and legs, quality through the udder, having a natural will to milk and the ability to last over a long lifetime," he says.
A veritable list of renowned cow families are prominent in the herd such as Hylke, Susie Red, Goldrose, Fame, Raspberry, Rachel, Debutante Rae, Lulu, Barbie, Pennyrealm, Rolls and Gretchen among others.
The 'Song' family is one such line that is entirely home-bred, tracing back through decades to the early herd established by his father.
Maunsell Classic Hilke Red EX93 is one example admired for her quality. She scored VG85 as a heifer and then attained EX (Excellent) as a 3rd calver. At the most recent classification inspection visit, she increased in score to EX93 with EX94 for frame, body and also legs and feet.
"We are farming on a limited land base. Simply put, we are just trying to make the most out of what we have from within the factors that we can control. Herd performance is all about management, beginning with rearing of heifer calves and continues right through the life stages," he says.
The revamped facilities completed in 2015 have brought about a seismic shift.
There are 220 cubicle spaces and a 10-unit Dairymaster double-up milking parlour contained under one roof.
The level of comfort now provided has to be seen to be understood.
"For me, cow comfort is vital for cows to express their potential.
"We provide the requirements for cows to produce to their best through the facilities and by feeding a quality diet that is uncomplicated yet nutritionally thorough and complete," he says.
A healthy, comfortable and natural environment is provided for this Holstein-Friesian herd and the end results follow through comfortably and naturally.
Michael is truly converted to the red and white with the results to vindicate his decision to change - and there is no going back.
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