Pictured: John O’Kane
Just outside Maherafelt, Co. Derry, father and son Bernard and John O’Kane are currently milking a herd of 80 cows on their family farm. The farm has been on a progressive curve over the past number of years, and 2019 saw the installation of two Lely Astronaut milking robots, along with additional cubicle housing for the herd.
The O’Kane’s have been working with Lakeland Agri for the past 12 months and performance has been good across the expanding herd of cows. Recently John has put the farm forward to be enlisted as one of the two farms on the Lakeland Agri-Trouw “Grasswatch” Programme, as he can see the value that grass will have for his herd going forward.
This coming year, 80 cows will be milked, and John will utilise an out-by-day and in-by-night system. Further investment is required in a graze-way system along with additional laneways to access land parcels, however in the future the hope is to have 110-120 cows milking on the two robots with an A/B grazing and C housed system in action.
Despite the performance of the herd indoors, and the current favourable milk prices, John was keen to get the cows out grazing, to lower the costs of production, take the pressure off animal’s feet and to exploit the value of fresh grass in the diet of the animals.
Lakeland Agri-Trouw “Grasswatch” Programme
Alongside his Lakeland Agri Nutritionist, Christopher Cahill and Technical Sales Representative, Gary Tubman, John will test his grass quality once per week to establish the feed value in the grass and will balance the diet accordingly with silage TMR and concentrate in the robots.
To date, John has completed three grass samples as part of the Lakeland Agri-Trouw “Grasswatch” Programme, and at the time of writing this article (26/03/2021), John hopes to introduce a fresh grass component to the milker’s diet over the coming days, weather permitting. As John is coming to the end of the calving season and 75 out of the 80 cows are milking already, it is important to note that he will have a large demand for grass immediately once stock commence grazing. Therefore, it is important to budget this grass throughout the first grazing rotation, to allow sufficient time for the regrowth to be at the correct stage before commencing the second round of grazing towards the end of April.
Not only with the Grasswatch Programme benefit the O’Kane’s but also the wider Lakeland Dairies milk supplier and feed customer pool. This will give us accurate grass quality results on a weekly basis throughout the grazing season representative of the Lakeland Dairies region. This in turn will allow Lakeland Agri to assist all milk suppliers and feed customers to maximise the performance of their stock from grazed grass while ensuring that all energy and protein requirements are met for the animal.