A traumatic depopulation provided be blessing in disguise for Cork dairy family

 

Decades of success: Paddy McCarthy, Patrick Gaynor, Alymer Power, Paul Hennessy, Paddy McCarthy, Henry O'Keeffe, host farmer, Liam O'Keeffe, Marie O'Keeffe, Julia O'Keeffe, Mossie O'Keeffe, and Charles Gallagher, CEO, IHFA at the launch of the Open Day.
Decades of success: Paddy McCarthy, Patrick Gaynor, Alymer Power, Paul Hennessy, Paddy McCarthy, Henry O'Keeffe, host farmer, Liam O'Keeffe, Marie O'Keeffe, Julia O'Keeffe, Mossie O'Keeffe, and Charles Gallagher, CEO, IHFA at the launch of the Open Day.

Martin Ryan

Depopulations were a nightmare for dairy farmers in the late 1980s, but one such traumatic event 32 years ago proved to be a blessing in disguise for the one family in Co Cork.

A depopulation in 1987 under the Disease Eradication Scheme prompted Henry O'Keeffe, from Knockilla, Freemount, Charleville to go down the pedigree route, and the 'super-cow' Holstein Friesian herd he established has an enviable record of exceptionally well-bred animals.

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"The herd was depopulated in 1987, and when I was restocking I decided to start the pedigree herd," explains Henry of "a very lucky" crossroads for breeding policy on the farm - his father Mossie had built up a good herd of dairy cows at the time. "It proved to be a major turning point."

The Radney Holstein Herd will be showcased to thousands of dairy breeders from all over the country on Thursday, June 27 when the O'Keeffes host the IHFA National Holstein Friesian Open Day.

The 73-cow milking herd has an average yield of 8,874kg milk, at 4.12pc fat, 3.74pc protein, producing 697kg of milk solids with an SCC of 65.

"I was fortunate to purchase select cow families from the Ardrahan herd of the Burns family, Kanturk. In particular the Odetta, Gerard, Ostrich and Deborah families have been a tremendous success," says Henry.

Open day: Liam, Henry and Marie O'Keeffe on their farm at Freemount, Co Cork where the IHFA National Open Day will be held on June 27
Open day: Liam, Henry and Marie O'Keeffe on their farm at Freemount, Co Cork where the IHFA National Open Day will be held on June 27

"These families have delivered generation after generation for milk solids, protein percentage and functionality, and this has opened up a market outlet for the sale of breeding bulls."

Five Radney-bred bulls have been purchased for AI. At the IHFA Premier Bull Sale 2017 three Radney bulls sold for a combined total of €8,250; and an individual price of €5,500 was previously achieved.

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"It's all about managing the best performance from the herd of cows with regard to the value of milk sales, sale of surplus stock, herd seasonal pattern and maximising the utilisation of grazed grass," Henry says.

The herd breeding policy is to select for good functional conformation, total milk solids, protein percent and also milk volume. Fertility is also an important consideration.

Classification has been a helpful tool to identify functionality, and it's then how you use the information to best effect. Cows that are long-lasting means there is surplus breeding stock available for sale annually.

* Radney Seal Odetta EX90 3E was the foundation dam in the herd. She produced 16 progeny and was the first cow to achieve 4pc protein. Her daughter Radney Merci Odetta 4 EX93 8E is affectionately known as 'the Queen'. She has a lifetime production of 3,874kg fat, 3,504kg protein and 3.56pc protein. She calved regularly every year, completing 15 lactations in total.

* Radney QUR Odetta EX93 8E is a grand-daughter of the Rock Seal cow, and she can take most credit for propelling the family into the limelight. She is in her 10th lactation and has bred 11 daughters so far. Her success and fruitful influence was enhanced via success with flushing and embryo transfer. Both her son Radney Levi 5 (YRY) and grandson Radney Steve ET (FR4098) have been selected to enter AI.

* Radney MWL Odetta 3 VG87 is the dam of Radney Steve and she is full sister to Radney Levi 5. In her second lactation she recorded 9,775kg milk, 4.20pc fat, 3.66pc protein and 769kg milk solids.

l Radney MIW Odetta 2 EX92 6E in her sixth lactation recorded 10,328kg milk, 784kg milk solids and 3.63pc protein. She calved in as a heifer on January 26 and calved again in the month of January every successive year, with her ninth calving this year occurring in February.

* Radney DUT Odetta EX91 3E with a third lactation yield of 10,490kg milk, 885kg solids and 3.80pc protein.

* Radney DUT Odetta 6 VG87 had a fourth lactation yield of 10,380kg milk, 767kg solids and 4.19pc protein.

* Radney RXO Odetta VG89 had a second lactation yield of 9,549kg milk, 722kg solids and 3.72pc protein.

The Deborah family also excels for production, conformation and longevity, with 16 natural-born members of the family in the herd.

* Radney OOK Deborah EX90 2E in her fourth lactation recorded 8,628kg Milk, 4.36pc fat, 4.14pc protein and 734kg milk solids.

The Gerrard family is also firmly established, exemplified by Radney QUR Gerrard 2 EX92 4E, now in her seventh lactation. In her 4th lactation she produced 9,515kg milk, 4.47pc fat, 3.95pc protein and 801kg milk solids.

* Radney BWV Triempress EX90 is a recent recipient of Diamond Award status. Her total lifetime production to date is 86,302kg milk, 3,358kg fat, 3,252kg protein, 3.89pc fat and 3.77pc protein.

Fertility performance is excellent: she has calved ten times since 2010, calving twice in 2017. Having calved since the start of February, she is now in her 10th lactation. She has three daughters in the herd who are all performing well, with high consistent yields and volumes of milk solids;

* Radney YRY Triempress VG85 in two lactations has averaged 7,529kg milk and 3.76pc protein.

* Radney NFT Triempress GP84 in her third lactation recorded 7,770kg milk, 4.22pc fat, 4.23pc protein and 656kg milk solids.

* Radney LLK Triempress recorded 7,971kg milk, 4.42pc fat, 3.73pc protein and 649kg milk solids in her second lactation.

Mature cows of fourth lactation or older make up 43pc of the herd, highlighting the excellent longevity, fertility and durability that have been bred into the herd.

Seven Radney cows have now been awarded Gold and Diamond awards for having achieving 3,000kg lifetime protein production.

Henry and his wife Marie now have the assistance of their youngest son Liam, who has returned to work full-time at home having graduated from Cork IT with a Level 7 qualification in Agricultural Science.

There are plans to build on the many herd achievements and performance benchmarks.

The National Open Day is one of the major annual events organised by the Irish Holstein Friesian Association and this year offers a wonderful opportunity to view the tremendous breeding and efficient performance of the Radney herd.

In addition key cow families will be represented in the teams of cows selected for the Inter-Club, Macra and Open stockjudging competitions to be held on the day.

A choice offering of more than 40 animals from the herd's top breeding lines will be offered for sale in a unique Radney celebratory sale under the hammer of auctioneer Denis Barrett.

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