ABERDEEN Angus has been the beef breed of choice
for County Fermanagh dairy farmers John and Trevor Dunn for more than 20 years.
The father and son team manage 150 acres and run a flying herd comprising of 100 commercial Holstein Friesian dairy cows. Milked twice daily in a 14-point swing-over parlour, the herd is averaging 8,800 litres per cow per year at 4.10 per cent butterfat and 3.20 per cent protein.
Cows calve all year round, which means a steady supply of milk for Glanbia, and a consistent number of dropped calves for sale. “We sell eight to 10 calves every month, either privately off-farm or through the local mart at Clogher. The Aberdeen Angus calves are in good demand from regular buyers and sell for between £250 to £350 per head at four to five weeks-of-age,” explained third generation farmer Trevor, who also runs a business selling grass seed and minerals.
When selecting an Aberdeen Angus stock bull John and Trevor are looking for a good square and thick traditional-type bull with a good backend. “Your eye is your judge, and your pocket is your guide,” jested Trevor.
Over the years bulls have been bought privately from local pedigree herds Jian and Strule, and more recently from the Clogher Valley herd owned by NI Aberdeen Angus Club vice chairman Ian Browne.
Trevor continued: “The Aberdeen Angus suits our system well, as the bulls offer easy calving traits and are suitable for use on dairy cows and heifers. The calves are lively at birth and thrive from day one.”
The majority of calves are born unassisted. The baby calves receive colostrum at birth, and are reared on powdered milk in individual pens before being managed in small batches in straw bedded pens.
“Calving all year round helps to decrease the pressure on calving pens, and also means we can focus on attention-to-detail when hand-rearing calves. The Aberdeen Angus calves are polled which also reduces the routine husbandry chores.
“The dairy cows are grazed, weather permitting,” explained Trevor, who is a former chairman of Fermanagh Grassland Club. “We aim to get the cows out to grass from mid-March onwards. They are normally grazed during the day and housed at night for the first few weeks.”
Aberdeen Angus bulls currently in use on the Brookeborough farm include the seven-year-old Strule Eric S564 and the two-year-old Clogher Valley Patriot W235.
The Aberdeen Angus offers num-erous advantages, including fertility, temperament, shorter gestation and longevity. “The bulls are hardy and economically kept on a low input system. We’ve had stock bulls that lived up to 10-years of age,” added Trevor.
“Ease of calving and the shorter gestation period results in less stress on the cow, which means she is back in the parlour and putting milk in the tank almost immediately. Quiet temperament is also a key trait, as the bulls run with the cows and come into the parlour twice every day.”
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