On a 70-acre holding at Old Manse, Glenwherry, near Ballymena, mixed farming has been abandoned by its owner, Mr David Montgomery, in favour of specialisation in milk production.
Mr Montgomery told FarmWeek: “Ayrshires have for many years been firm favourites here; they have in fact been on the farm for probably the best part of 50 years.
“In recent years they offered the prospect of more profit than mixed farming, so four or five years ago I decided to specialise in milk.
“Then came a snag – the price received for the bull calves. I could see no alternative but to change over to Friesians,” said Mr Montgomery.
He is now in the course of making the change over by means of AI.
Over the past 12 months black and white calves have been produced from the cows but pure Ayrshire calves have still been bred from heifers.
About 20 cows are milked and these are wintered in a modern unit with self feed silage and lying in shed fitted with cubicles.
Milking is done in a milking parlour fitted with what was originally an L-shaped three-cow Alfa-Laval milking machine. A fourth place has been added since the machine was installed. Andrews Top Sol is fed to the cows.
“We have been perfectly well satisfied with the milk yield of Ayrshires under our conditions,” said Mr Montgomery. “But the bull calves are the bug-bear, and undo much of the result from the cows.”
A breeding flock of cross-bred ewes is kept and these are mated to Suffolk rams.
“I regard the sheep more or less as scavengers on the farm, eating what the cows don’t. In fact it was to control ragwort that they were introduced at all,” Mr Montgomery explained.
The whole of the 70 acres of the farm is now in grass, an area of which is reseeded from time to time as thought advisable.
Part is at present the result of re-seeding after barley when cropping was being done.
Mr Montgomery’s son Dave takes an active part in the running of the farm and does the farm’s book work.
In several fields, since the change to dairying was made, hedges have been removed and next year it is hoped to start paddock grazing.
The object is to bring the farm to the highest attainable state of efficiency and to continue to keep abreast of current trends in dairying farming.
So far Mr Montgomery and his son are pleased. They consider that the much better price which can be obtained for bull calves of Friesian character will boost the profit making capacity of the milking herd considerably.
The heifer calves, of course, provide a ready safety valve if for any reason expectations are not realised.