BY AOIFE FEENEY
2018 Drinagh Co-op Sustainability award winner at the Carbery Milk Quality Awards, Tim McCarthy, has given us an overview of his 67ha farm in Drimoleague.
Farming with his son Shane, they are milking 130 predominantly Holstein Friesians with some Norwegian Red crosses off a milking block of 55ha. The remaining 12 ha is used for rearing replacement heifers and silage ground.
Having grown the herd from 80 cows to 130 in the last three years, the McCarthys focused on two key areas and this is what has helped them to become a successful and sustainable enterprise:
Grass focus – the McCarthys soil sample one-third of their ground every year. This ensures that the whole farm is sampled every three years. A big focus has been put on liming the ground in the last year.
Shane says: ‘Having optimum soil fertility is crucial to grass growth for us. Especially after the year we’ve had. We grass measure weekly and know exactly what is available to us.’ As a result, the McCarthy’s manage to grow 14t/ha of grass annually.
They also reseed 15% of the ground annually. Grass measuring has meant that the McCarthy’s were better able to utilise the grass at the back end of the year closing the fodder gap somewhat. Weekly measurements are inputted to Agri-net, which Shane uses to produce a grass growth curve for the farm.
Breeding and calving interval – this is also a key area the McCarthys focused on. Tim says: ‘We aim to get as much as we can out of what we have. We have increased our herd over the last few years and put a big emphasis on the calving interval and cow type.
‘We use 100% AI and our calving interval is around 10 weeks with 91% calving down in 6 weeks’. Focusing on cow type, fertility and production, the McCarthy’s look for a good balance in EBI and have a herd of 120 EBI (€).
‘Having the cows in the right condition at breeding and calving is crucial to the compact calving’ says Shane.
Since expanding the herd, the McCarthy’s have managed to maintain a high level of sustainable production. They have kept infrastructure in top condition and maintained the buildings that have always been on the farm.
They installed a rainwater harvesting system and use this water to wash down the yards and the parlour. They keep roadways in excellent condition and access to paddocks is easy for the cows. Tim says that ‘the good infrastructure has played a big part in the smooth running of the operation.’
The McCarthys were finalists last week in the ‘Reduced Carbon Footprint’ category of Bord Bia’s Origin Green Farmer Awards.
• Aoife Feeney is a dairy sustainability advisor with the Carbery Group.