Rodney Magowan reports
WITH yields heading towards an average of 9,000kg at 4.12% butterfat and 3.37% protein, the 170-strong Heathmount Holstein herd on the McKinney family farm near Maghera is clearly well managed.
Good management that utilises good breeding by housing milkers year round on a TMR (total mix ration), based on good grass and wholecrop silages.
Brothers David and Jonathan McKinney followed their now semi-retired father Trevor in building up the herd from 60 in the 1990s to the current 170 plus followers. A new 20 x 2 parlour with semi-fast exit is nearing completion and will halve milking time to allow the herd to reach a planned 200 milkers.
“Back in 1998 a 10 day study tour of Holstein herds in the States convinced us that housing Holsteins all year made sound business sense,” explained David McKinney.
“In the USA it was clear that getting the most from a modern Holstein cow cannot entail her trudging across fields in a futile mission to get sufficient grass intake to reach her potential yield. We always buy the good bull we want or come home with no bull as breeding is the key to progress and profitability, but feeding is vital to reaping the rewards of good genetics.”
Thus since 2004 Trevor and his sons have housed their Holsteins year round, invested in self-built airy accommodation and switched to TMR with a feeder wagon.
“That meant we needed to make consistently good quality silage and keep it stable in the clamp year round, even in the hottest of summers,” added Jonathan.
“Several silage additives were tried, but only Ecosyl had that ability to not only boost silage quality, but to keep it stable as silo pits were opened and used in all seasons. Without ever consistent silage the TMR system simply will not succeed.”
Two Volac silage additives supplied by Thompsons are used. Ecosyl for grass silage and DA Ecocorn for wholecrop made with triticale and spring wheat – crops the McKinneys can put in and manage with their own equipment until ready for harvesting.
David and Jonathan emphasised that attention to detail in ensuring additives are correctly applied at all times is vital during silage making.
“Even the best of additives, Ecosyl and DA Ecocorn, cannot do their job properly unless applied consistently at the right rate,” affirmed David.
Developed and produced in this country, Ecosyl is the most proven additive available. Thirty-three independent dairy and beef trials found a benefit of 1.2l per cow per day and a 15 per cent plus boost to DLWG in beef cattle.
DA Ecocorn used by the McKinney family on wholecrop cereal silage gives improved fermentation and animal performance as well as better aerobic stability.
Aside from milk supplied to farmer-owned Dale Farm, the brothers sell all bull calves from their Heathmount Holsteins to beef producers, with heifers retained as replacement milkers.
Based on the hard-earned experience of previous generations, Jonathan and David never put all their eggs in one basket, especially in this era of global milk price volatility.
Hence two other enterprises aid profit flow and clearly give men with a passion for breeding good stock an extra interest. Their 35 strong Heathmount pedigree Limousin herd, founded in 1996, produces up to 18 bulls and some heifers for sale each year.
Top prices of 25,000gns for a bull and 22,000 for a female are highlights from sales in the Borderway Mart, Carlisle, and at Dungannon. However the satisfied customer in the yard returning time and again is the foundation of their Limousin enterprise. Show successes, including at the Royal Ulster in 2003, gave the McKinneys a lot of pleasure, but sheer lack of time has put an end to such outings.
Like the Holsteins these Heathmount Limousins, as their DLWG figures prove, thrive on silage made with Ecosyl additive from Volac.
A third enterprise at Heathmount is a pedigree Texel flock, another terminal sire breed famed for producing better grades.
For Jonathan and David using Ecosyl and DA Ecocorn gives peace of mind year round from well made silage that remains high quality feed, even from an opened clamp in mid summer.
q For details of Volac silage additives browse www.uk.ecosyl.com or contact Thompsons on (028) 9035 1321, Ecosyl NI distributors.