Almost 1,000 feet above sea level in South Kilkenny, Bryan and Gail Daniels will showcase their outstanding pure Friesian herd of 300 cows to breeders from all over the country tomorrow.
The Raheenarran Herd at Kilmoganny, has been expanded three-fold in recent years and former winner of the FBD Young Farmer of the Year, Bryan, hasn't rule out further expansion, "because there is availability of land in this area" and he still hears the advice of his grandmother, Mai, ringing in his ears.
"My grandmother would have been a very strong believer in the milking cow. You have nothing unless you have the milking cow she used to say," Bryan recalls, as the May sunshine adds to the picture-perfect scenery surrounding the farm at the IHFA Pure Friesian Open Day launch.
"And she was dead right. She was a clever woman. She was probably the real driver of putting cows on this farm in her time.
"We had horses and greyhounds here before that and she offloaded all of them and replaced them with cows and then my father realised the strength that the farm had with the cows and he really drove it on at that time," he says.
After one year in Kildalton Agricultural College, Bryan came back to the farm at Kilmoganny in 2001, where at that time his father, John, who is still an active man and keenly interested in and supportive of the progress, had built up a herd of 90 mlking cows, which together with a calf-to-beef system and a contracting business to service farm needs in the area comprised the farm operations.
Having taken over the farm from his parents at the age of 19, Bryan immediately identified dairying as the enterprise to drive the best return and the Friesian cow as the best means to achieve this.
He engaged in the IHFA Grade Up to model the future herd for the farm.
The strength of cow families within the herd was evident from the outset and the power of maternal breeding generation after generation has allowed for herd expansion from within. Cow numbers today are treble the size of the herd when starting out.
In 2007 after the Celtic Tiger economy died, the contracting business became less attractive and it was decided to drive the expansion of the dairy herd which stood at 90 cows. The future of the calf-to-beef enterprise was also being questioned.
The expansion of the dairy herd continued with quota being purchased to cover about 150-160 cows in 2013, but the removal of the restriction on production was being very anxiously awaited in April 2015 by which time they were milking 200 cows.
This year the herd has been increased to 300 cows which are being carried on 140ha. Most of the farm is 900ft above sea level rising to almost 1,000ft at points on the farm.
It may be a very scenic setting in beautiful surrounds but posed its challenges during the snow blizzard in the Spring which delivered drifts of up to eight feet. Contractors had to be used to clear nearly a mile of roadway to keep access to the farm open.
"We do get a fair amount of snow here. We are high and it is not too uncommon," says Bryan.
There are other challenges too, like having to walk the cows up to 2km in one direction to get to the paddock, but none that is going to dampen the determination to further build the herd.
"There are opportunities everywhere," says Bryan and he believes that further expansion will be on the plan as more land becomes available in the area.
He has chosen the most suitable cows to suit the conditions on the farm.
"We need a smaller animal here because of the altitude. I think that the ideal cow for this farm is 75pc pure Friesian and 25pc Holstein and that is what we are planning," he says.
There has been considerable interest from Al organisations in the herd genetics. Raheenarran MEB Sochar (RHS) was the first bull to enter AI. Sired by Morbeker Bas, his evaluation now includes 1,029 Irish milking daughters in 372 herds.
His dam Raheenarran Hylke Breda VG87 proved to be a popular attraction as a Bull mother. She scored EX92 for Legs & Feet and this functionality score captured her longevity, lasting in the herd for 14 lactations. In total she produced over 6,000kgs milk solids with Protein to 3.98pc.
Her Blackisle Glenalby son BCG Sochar (RVJ) currently has over 4,000 Irish milking daughters and also has milking daughters recorded in Australia.
Another son Raheenarran Bod was retained as a service sire for the herd and he has bred some very nice and consistant daughters. He has featured in previous lHFA Journal listings of high geneoc merit, Pedigree sires bred from VG/EX Dam and Grand-Dam having high PTA's for Fertility.
Recognition of the breeding prowess of Hylke Breda continues apace with the two most recent bulls selected for AI descending from this flagship cow. Mrlingles (ZJJ) is a great-grandson and Mr Potter (FR4133) born in 2016 is a further generation on.
Longevity is a hallmark of the herd. The ability to last and inherent good fertility of the Raheenarran Pure Friesians is such that the herd empty rate is typically between 7-11pc per year and this provides for a positive culling policy with up to 10pc voluntary cull every year.
Herd performance is very strong with an average of 422kg of milk solids delivered in 2017 generating a return of 38.9c/l for 3.66pc Protein.
Breeding policy is to put half the herd in calf to Friesian and use a combination of Hereford and Angus on the balance.
The 22-unit herringbone parlour which was installed when the herd development was getting under way was replaced with a rotary parlour in 2016.
All are welcome to attend the Open Day at the farm tomorrow which is located 15 minutes off the M9 motorway at junction 10. Eircode R95 P202.