Charlie Whiriskey milks 96 cows in Kiltullagh, Athenry, Co. Galway. To meet his liquid milk quota Charlie milks a small herd of 15-20 cows over the winter. In 2015 the farm sold 437kg MS per cow (790kg MS/ha, 5765 ltrs/cow at 3.99% fat, 3.36% protein) and were fed 1.2 tonnes of meal. This spring Charlie had a six-week calving rate of 64%. The land Charlie farms is difficult to manage. The soil is clay/bog and Charlie and his father John have done considerable work over the years reclaiming land and putting in drains and shores. Over the course of the programme, efforts will be made to get cows out earlier to increase the amount of grass in the diet and reduce Charlie’s reliance on concentrate and silage to feed cows during spring; ultimately improving farm profit. This year Charlie has started grass measuring weekly, something he has never done before; keeping a closer eye on grass growth has ensured that Charlies cows are consistently grazing appropriate covers (about 1400kg/ha).
One of the main goals on Charlie’s farm is to achieve a more compact calving season and a shorter breeding season. Currently calving and breeding overlap resulting in a very heavy workload for Charlie right up until the end of May. The aim throughout this programme is to tighten up the calving period and reduce breeding season length, which will allow Charlie to take a few days break in April between both tasks. Spring takes its toll on one-man operations like Charlie’s and so getting the chance to take a few days off in April is vital.
Currently the farm is stocked at 1.9LU/ha and though potential exists to increase cow numbers, the milking facilities (7 unit) limit further expansion. Improving technical efficiencies on the farm (reducing concentrate costs, improved 6 week calving rate, and improved grassland management) will improve farm profit and put the farm in a better position to take on the development of new milking facilities.