Breeding a robust cow for Meath autumn calving herd

The first focus farm in the Progressive Farm Program takes a look at Peter and Gerry Moore’s autumn-calving dairy system in Bellewstown, Co. Meath.

Peter Moore

The first focus farm is a mixed tillage and dairy operation – with all cows calving during autumn, and Holstein Friesian being the most prominent breed within the herd. Peter said that one of the main things that he looks for, is a low maintenance cow that can be easily managed over the winter months. Production for the year averaged at 17.5L/cow, with a fat content of 4.58% and a protein content of 3.7%. Calving in 2023 went very well according to Peter, with 90 cows calved down.

When it comes to breeding, Peter said that a major focus is placed on improving fat and protein percentages, fertility and overall economic breeding index (EBI). Michael Quinn is Peter’s breeding advisor, and has been working with the Moores over the course of the last five years. Peter explained that he and Michael sit down and set out the targets they want to achieve for the upcoming breeding season. Once this has been done, Michael will produce a team of bulls for the Moores to use.

Sexed semen was used for the first time in 2023, with only a certain number of cows bred to Friesian and the remaining cows bred to beef. Overall, Peter has been very pleased with the results.

The Moores signed up to the Longhorn Scheme with Progressive Genetics and the Buitelaar Group, in which 30 calves were born onto the farm during that time frame. Once the calves weighed 55kg, they were collected without any hassle involved. As a result, Peter is planning to increase the number of Longhorn straws that will be used on the farm this breeding season.

Bull selection

When it comes to bull selection, Michael leaves no stone unturned in putting together a team of bulls that will deliver for Peter’ s herd. “I take a look at the previous years figures and see how Peter is progressing, and after that, I start to build a picture of what bulls he can use to progress his herd further.” 537kg of milk solids were produced on the farm in 2022, with an average milk price of 61c/L achieved. Continuing, he said: “It is alright looking at one year, but Peter is achieving this every year. On average over the last five years, 531kg of milk solids has been produced. “He has bred himself a very robust cow, with a 363-day calving interval – which is a calf/cow/year on the button – fertility is excellent here.”

Michael says that bulls like Tankardsrock TeakCloonigney Lobster and Tobermartin Francis are just some of the bulls that have been used on the farm. As Peter is part of the Longhorn Scheme, it means that he is getting a guaranteed outlet for his calves and a guaranteed price, Michael commented.

AgriNet HerdApp

Peter has been using AgriNet HerdApp on the farm since he got his first computer. “We are mainly using it for registering calves. I would say we are using it since we brought a computer back in 1996,” Peter said.

AgriNet HerdApp allows Peter to register calves, apply for movement permits, record inseminations and drug usage, and to keep a very close eye on his herd. It is fully Bord Bia compliant and eliminates the need for unnecessary paperwork, as all of the herd’s information is stored on the app. AgriNet HerdApp is Ireland’s leading farm management tool, that allows farmers to manage all the key day-to-day functions on a typical Irish dairy or beef farm, empowering farmers to make the right management decisions for more profitable dairy farming.

Milk recording

Milk recording is a vital tool on the farm for aiding breeding decision, monitoring production of the cows, and for selecting and identifying high cell count. Peter also uses milk recording data when he is selecting cows suitable for selective dry cow therapy (SDCT). Peter’s aim is to produce more from less cows, and he also invested in low emission slurry spreading (LESS) technology for sustainability reasons.

To maximise profit on the farm, Peter said that it comes down to keeping costs low, and to focus on breeding to increase milk solids/cow. Long-term, Peter hopes to move into robotic milking to reduce the labour required on the farm.

For more information on AgriNet HerdApp, click here.

Additionally, for more information on Progressive Genetics, click here.