BY Rodney MagowaN
MATTHEW Workman takes the neat and tidy route to maximising the margins and lifestyle provided by up to 230 Holsteins on the family farm at Moneybrannon, Aghadowey.
In this dairy farming heartland of County Londonderry, Workman Farms Ltd utilises 430 acres, 174ha, for grazing and silage. Of this 310 acres, 125ha, are owned. All in a landscape of large, mainly level fields, the envy of those farming the drumlins of Down.
With family support, especially that of his father Desmond, plus one full-time and two part-time staff, Matthew seeks to have a 21st century work life balance giving adequate family time.
When it comes to livestock management the Workman team start as they proceed with a first rate calf rearing unit.
In light, airy and draught-free sheds where animals are easily observed, the emphasis is on giving replacement heifers a sound bone structure. Thus CalfSmart 25 milk replacer from Lakeland Agri is fed through a Volac Forster Technik computerised calf feeder.
“We have had great service from this machine for over 11 years,” reflected Matthew, who reckons time spent looking after equipment pays well.
“At the end of the calf rearing season we take time to clean the machine thoroughly and replace any pipes needed. Having, thanks to Volac, service technician David Johnston on call gives extra re-assurance.
“Instead of one of us spending a good 45 minutes, twice a day, traipsing around the yard bucket feeding them, now our calves have easy access to milk on a more natural ‘little and often basis’.
“Milk that is always of the same consistency at the same temperature. The IT package on the machine helps alert us to problems with individual calves before they become major problems. Using the best milk powder in a proven machine makes rearing even batches a lot easier right through calving time from August to March.
“Our milk has been marketed to what is now Lakeland Dairies since the days of Ballyrashane Creamery. As a farmer owned co-op with successful senior management, Lakeland has impressed us.
“Hence the decision to use their CalfSmart 25 calf milk powder manufactured to their specification by Volac International, a company supporting local milk producers and milk prices by buying whey from UK cheese factories to make calf milk powder.”
Commenting, Gary Tubman from Lakeland Agri noted that CalfSmart 25 contains 25 per cent protein to ensure maximum frame growth and development, thus ensuring dairy heifers develop into ideal herd replacements.
“CalfSmart 25 also has those amino acids, immunoglobulins and lactoferrins vital for healthy calf growth and development.”
With his herd averaging 8,500 litres at 4.33 per cent butterfat and 3.39 per cent protein, Matthew uses sexed Holstein semen on first and second calvers. Two Aberdeen Angus bulls are kept to work as sweepers.
As cows head towards a third lactation the switch is made to a triple package of beef semen; Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and British Blue. These beef bred progeny are usually sold when a few weeks old at the local dropped calf sale.
Holstein heifer calves come off the milk powder and automatic feeder at eight weeks or shortly after depending on their look and weight.
For the Workman family producing milk efficiently means making best use of cows grazing well managed swards. In a typical year 15 acres are reseeded with early grass varieties.
“We did try wholecrop, but grass for grazing and silage suits us and suits this farm,” Matthew affirmed.
“And that was one of the reasons we did not go down the robot route when replacing our 50 year old milking parlour a year past. I want to make best use of cows naturally at grass.
“Our site does not suit a rotary parlour so our major investment was in a Dairy Master Swiftflo 24 X 48 rapid exit installed by Cookstown Dairy Services.
“In a large, naturally well-lit shed this has proved a real boon as milking time is typically only an hour and a half. All in an open, easily operated, working environment.”
For Matthew and team good genetics, good grazing and a great new parlour are bringing success founded on rearing heifers on target.
This they achieve by using CalfSmart 25, the best of calf milk powders supplied by farmer owned Lakeland Agri.
To help Lakeland NI milk suppliers manage cash flow a ‘feed now, pay later’ Deferred Payment Scheme is on offer this autumn on full pallets of Lakeland Agri branded replacers.