As part of this week’s dairy segment, That’s Farming, spoke to Adrian Cooney, owner of Dairystock Services. He revealed how farmers can gain more money with the same milk production levels by choosing the Fleckvieh breed.
In August 2019, Adrian Cooney, from Cahir, County Tipperary, who grew up on a dairy farm, established Dairystock Services when he discovered a niche in the market for the sought-after Fleckvieh dairy breed.
Dairystock Services provide a range of maiden heifers, autumn, and spring-calvers, AI-grade breeding bulls and A2A2 cows. The company employs nutritionist, John Fitzgerald, in Munster and Leinster, Damien Dixon, in Connacht, Willie Fay, (Midlands area/Northern Ireland), and administrative staff, Lena Ryan.
The firm is the result of Adrian’s investigation of the dairy industry market. He went in search of a dual-purpose breed that could produce a cow with the same amount of milk and a saleable calf. The Fleckvieh breed ticked all the boxes for him.
Now, Cooney and his team source high-generic merit dairy stock from closed high bio-secure herds for their growing customer base.
“For example, in maiden heifers, we would have 100 maiden heifers between Holstein Friesian and Fleckvieh in stock, and we would have several September to October calvers and many stock bulls,” he told That’s Farming.
“Fleckvieh would be 80% of our business. We bring in Friesian Holstein, Danish Holstein, and Dutch Holstein cows. We have some stock running with bulls that will get scanned at the end of July or August and will be guaranteed in-calf.”
“The feedback we have is that the Flekvieh on the first lactation is every bit as good as their own Friesian heifers on the first lactation.”
“Their milk solids are good, they have a saleable calf, the animal has a good body score, and they are a very saleable cull cow when the time comes. Longevity, fertility and good feet are very important and Fleckvieh tick all boxes.”
“We supply Holstein Friesian dairy farmers who crossed their Holstein Friesian with Fleckvieh, who find it very good. So, for the Holstein Friesian Fleckvieh-cross bull calves, they are getting between €250-€320. Where they were only getting €30-€50, for the Holstein Friesian bull calf.”
“Any breed that the farmer wants, we will select from buyer secured herds across Europe, and we will get them what they want.”
Prices up €300/hd
According to Adrian, over the past 12 months, prices for in-calf heifers in the continent and Austria has increased by €300/head.
“The reason is there is a shortage of dairy stock around Europe and in North African countries like Turkey. There is a big demand for Fleckvieh.”
“Fleckvieh is the second most bred cow in the world, and there is a massive demand for Fleckvieh in Turkey, Tunisia, Russia. It puts pressure on the Irish buyer to compete.”
“We only deal in high high-end genetics. So, for example, we would be taking in dams doing 8,000 plus litres with 7.3% to 7.5% milk solids and the grand-dams of that same heifer, maternal and paternal on father’s side doing from 9,000 to 13,000 litres and 7.3% to 8% solids.”
“A Fleckvieh will not peak until its fourth lactation. It will stay on that for its next five to six lactations or up to 10 lactations no problem.”
Adrian explained the procedure when stock arrives in his Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine-approved quarantine facility.
“The quarantine consists of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) coming to my yard and taking three blood samples the first day. In twelve to fourteen days, they come back and take two blood samples.”
“Each time, the samples are sent to the lab in Dublin for the DAFM to do all their tests on them. I will get my vet to TB test them.”
“Then, when all the blood samples are back, which takes 24 to 30 days, I will get the green light; all is clear, and I notify the farmer all the stock is clear, and the animals are ready to go.”
Emphasis on production
Adrian places emphasis on milk solids [i.e., protein and butterfat] when sourcing animals.
“We go to the bloodlines and see what production for the dam’s generation and both grand dams’ generation and what exactly they are doing. We match that with what the farmer wants.”
“There is no point me giving a farmer an 11,000-litre cow when his average is 6,500-litres. Unless they are on a field-to-yield system; that cow will not work for him.”
“What we do is we speak with the farmer, and if they are on 7,000 litres, we look for about an 8,500-litre cow, and that in the Irish system will match his 7,000-litres but with higher solids, have a very saleable calf and a very saleable cull cow.”
Adrian outlined why the Fleckvieh is a popular choice with new-entrant dairy farmers. He noted that the breed is robot and parlour friendly and works very well on grass-based and zero-grazing systems.
“The new-entrant dairy farmer has a very big investment and is trying to get the best return on their investment. Out of that, the Fleckvieh will give the best return compared to a Friesian black and white on an autumn or spring calving system.”
“The calf is very important to them because of the money they can get for a calf. Of course, it is just as important for new and old, but new entrants find the Fleckvieh ticking the boxes for them.”
“Fertility is phenomenal. The Fleckvieh are well-known for their fertility. Their foot health and longevity are very important.”
“We have farmers reporting back to us in 14 to 18 days after calving that they are starting to come into the cycle, but obviously, they are not AI’ing them.”
Irish dairy industry
Adrian shared his views on the Irish dairy industry.
“The outlook is very good because we have many repeat customers, and we are gaining new customers every month.”
“So, the outlook is strong, especially with the dairy sector doing very well, having a good price for milk for the last two years. Farmers see an investment in Fleckvieh cattle as the way to go.”
“If you take the equivalent of a black and white Friesian, which has as good as breeding figures as our Fleckviehs. They worked out cheaper and will leave you more money in the long run, and these are a pedigree animal.”
“It is very important to cross them with the right bull which we give farmers advice and what semen to use. If they go down the bull route, we have a selection of top-end bulls in our yard that farmers can buy.”
“I think the dairy industry is looking very strong. Any of the people well established are doing very well.”
“It is like anything; you need to move with the times but keeping a close eye on your carbon footprint because it will be a big thing.”
“The customer will demand this on the shop shelf and how it was produced. This is where the Fleckvieh comes to the fore,” the owner of Dairystock Services concluded.
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