Shane O’Dowd farms 120 dairy cows in Drumkilly, Co. Cavan, under the herd prefix, Drumkilly Holsteins.
The third-generation farmer was previously a carpenter, but now runs the family farm on a full-time basis.
Shane implements a split calving system on his farm, with some of the herd calving in spring and the remainder in autumn.
When it comes to breeding, the Cavan man aims to calve heifers at 24 months and has particular traits that he likes to breed in his Holsteins. “I like a medium-sized Holstein cow with good depth and width, strong legs and a good udder,” he explained.
To date, the breeding strategy has resulted in an annual production 8,489 litres with 604kg of milk solids from a concentrate input of 1.8 tonnes/cow.
Animal husbandry has also played a huge role in the performance of his cows to date and the infrastructural changes he has invested in play a role in this by improving cow welfare.
Along with installing two Lely Astronaut A5 robotic milking machines in 2019, the dairy farmer has also extended his cow shed to improve cow comfort.
He removed a number of walls to allow cows to have more lunge room and installed bigger beds, new cubicles and new mattresses.
O’Dowd has seen positive results since installing the Cowcoon cubicles and pasture mattresses. “Cow health and condition has improved a lot because the cows are more content and are lying down for longer, which has also increased yield.”
“With my shed renovation/extension, cow comfort was my top priority. I decided on Wilson Agri’s Pasture Mat with Premium Pad and their Cowcoon Cubicles”
“I was very pleased with the results. My cows are now producing more milk because they are very comfortable and content.”
Future of the industry
Confident that his investments will pay off, Shane now plans to increase his herd to 140 cows, raise their yield by another 1,000 litres and also increase the amount of solids they are producing.
Making such changes and investment requires a level of optimism and confidence in the future of the industry, which is something that O’Dowd has in abundance.
“I am quite optimistic about the future – you need to be at this game. There has always been ups and downs and this will always be the case, but overall, I think the future looks bright.”
Whilst shedding light on the success of his business to date, the Cavan man said: “I think the key element to running a successful dairy enterprise is surrounding yourself with the best people in the industry, from your accountant to contractors, but mainly I think you need to really enjoy your work and if you do the rest will follow.”