ONE of the leading dairy farmers in Ireland has passed on farm management tips to members of Fermanagh Grassland Club at a recent meeting.
Patrick Kelly, who farms at Waterwheel Farm, Killygordon, County Donegal, spoke on “Milking it from grass and genetics.”
Managing almost 300 Holstein Friesian cows on a grass-based system with spring calving, Patrick is a member of the board of Progressive Genetics and is Vice-Chairman of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF).
A graduate of University College Dublin, Patrick has worked for spells in the Netherlands, France and New Zealand and is a former National Chairman of Macra na Feirme.
Outlining his farm business, Patrick explained how he began dairy farming in 1986 as the fifth generation of the family to farm there with his father, also Patrick, as well as his mother and brother-in-law. A number of full-time and farm relief staff are also involved.
In the past year, the farm produced 13.5 tonnes DM of grass per hectare.
The 290 spring calving cows produced 6150 litres with 4.5 per cent fat and 3.7 per cent protein. Grass measuring is an essential tool and Patrick said there were days with peak grass growth in May producing 150kgs DM per day.
With a specialist interest in genetics, Patrick breeds dairy bulls looking for traits such as milk solids. His dairy breeding has led to positive results, not only within his herd but also giving him the capability of having six bulls in the National Bull Centre.
The grazing platform is in one block, along the River Finn and while being relatively dry ground is also prone to occasional flooding.
He told farmers that lime was the most important fertiliser, keeping soil fertility right. “It’s a waste of time trying to grow grass if soil fertility is not right,” he said.
He said the type of cows were central to the grazing system with medium size cows weighing 550kgs. The herd is above the national average with milk yields and milk solids having increased. He said 2019 was a record year for milk solids production.
“Herd potential is the keystone of profitability,” he said.
Patrick went on to explain the work of ICBF which has a national cattle breeding database of over 30 million animals with over 100 million records.