FATHER and son team Ken and Stefan Craig are new entrants to dairy.
The decision to switch the focus of their Ballyclare farming operation from beef to milk was taken on the back of the potential for growth and sustainability which the new enterprise offered.
“Milk production gives us a real opportunity to maximise the potential of the farm,” said Ken.
“It should also allow us expand the scope of the business at some future stage, should we decide to go down that road.”
He added: “The logistics associated with the switch to the new enterprise were reasonably straightforward. The cheque generated by the sale of the last batches of finished cattle that left the farm were used to fund the purchase of the 70 dairy heifers and cows that we needed.
“All of the existing buildings could be used for the purposes of cubicle accommodation and to house the milking plant and dairy.”
Just over a year into the new venture, the Craigs are happy to confirm that their plans are now falling into place.
“We purchased a selection of Holstein, Friesian, Fleckvieh and Montbelliarde breeding stock,” Stefan explained.
“During their first lactation they averaged 9,000L with good butterfat and protein.”
He added: “Ensuring that we had sufficient accommodation on the farm for the growing stock numbers was one of the fundamental investment decisions that we had to take during Year 1.
“As it turned out, there was a requirement for an additional 24 cow cubicle places on the farm.
“We addressed this issue by extending the existing cubicle house prior to the commencement of the current feeding season.”
The project entailed the construction of a new slatted tank on to which was added the walls and roof of the extension.
“The new facility includes the 24 cubicles that we needed and a passage that allows us to feed baled or clamp silage,” said Ken.
When it came to the floor cover on the tank, Ken and Stefan opted for the Surefoot slat range, from Moore Concrete.
“It was the obvious choice to make,” Ken explained.
“I did not want to have the cows injured as a result of slips or falls. And I am happy to confirm that we have not had one issue of this kind to deal with since the animals arrived well over a year ago.”
Research has shown that the nature of the floor surface will affect the degree of sure-footedness that an animal feels when either standing or walking on slats. This challenge has always been recognised by Moore Concrete: hence the development of the company’s Surefoot slat design.
The Surefoot system has been independently trialled by Cheshire veterinarian Owen Atkinson with the results confirming the wherewithal of the slats to offer a significantly enhanced slip resistant surface for livestock.
“The slats are proving exceptionally popular with dairy and other livestock farmers throughout the UK,” Moore’s Jeff Haslett confirmed.
Jeff and his colleague Gail Service were recent visitors to the Craig farm.
“The specifications of the tank required the fitting of 13 feet (4m) slats,” Jeff explained.
According to Gail, Surefoot slats provide 50 per cent more grip, when compared to a standard brushed slat surface. She added: “It is great to speak to farmers such as Ken and Stefan and get their first-hand account of how Surefoot has led to a significant reduction in slip related injuries, providing cows with more confidence to exhibit their natural behaviours.
“As a result, feed intakes will increase, and bulling behaviour will become more noticeable. That means more milk and higher profit margins per cow. Overall we estimate investment in Surefoot provides an economic benefit of £60 per annum per cow.”
Further information is available at www.moore-concrete.com, alternatively contact a member of the Agriculture Team at Moore Concrete on (028) 2565 2566 Ext 1