Pictured - Tyrone farmer, David McCrea
In the valley below Drumlegagh, Newtownstewart, Co. Tyrone lies the McCrea family farm. Despite the challenging nature of the local terrain, the father and son team of Albert and David have established one of the highest performing dairy herds in the area.
The herd of 60 cows are currently on track to produce 9300 litres/cow, on a housed by night system, and grazing by day when weather and grass allows. Improving the way-of-life for both man and dairy cow as well as an ageing parlour, were some of the many reasons why McCrea’s decided to go down the robotic dairy route two years ago. In what was an atypical move for the duo, they decided upon a GEA Monobox.
Although cows transitioned easily to the system, David felt that they were not reaching their full potential. Having spoken to his local Lakeland Agri Technical Sales Representative, Gary Tubman, the McCrea’s joined the Lakeland Dairies Transition Management Programme (TMS) 12 months ago to gain a greater insight into cow performance and identify where there was room for improvement.
As part of the programme, assessors Shannon Porter and Kim Carnegie, identified that the dry cows were under conditioned when approaching calving and were losing condition after calving, with many fresh cows only averaging a Body Condition Score of 2.5.
Having identified these issues within the herd, both the Lakeland Agri Ultrabalance Dry Cow Nut and a McCrea bespoke Dairy Nut were introduced. The dry cow nut is fed throughout the dry cow period through an out of parlour feeder. Feed levels are adjusted based on the cows condition at drying off and how close she is to calving, with cows progressing to near 4kg/day in the final 3 weeks pre calving.
The McCrea Dairy Nut is used in both the GEA milking robot but also in an additional out of parlour feeder. The fresh cow diets were also adjusted in line with the introduction of the bespoke nut to maintain condition on the cows post calving.
It has been over 12 months since the McCrea’s joined the TMS Programme and it is clear that the results have been extremely positive.
According to David,
The condition of the cows is the biggest improvement that I have seen. Dry cows are in much better condition, and particularly after calving, cows are holding their condition well. Instances of transition issues continue to remain low also.
Butterfat and proteins in the milk are well up and steady, which I am happy with. Litres are up also, which is partly due to the robot, however both the Lakeland Agri TMS Programme and introduction of a correct feeding regime has definitely helped with that. The cows peaked at a 38 litre average this year, with 54 cows on the robot. Currently, the herd is doing 33 litres on average, with the fresh cows currently averaging over 38 litres.
For the future, we plan to get to roughly 70 cows overall, with around 50 cows milking on the robot at all times, along with pushing up that milk output per cow figure!