The Harte’s milk 120 dairy cows producing high quality milk, with high solids and low SCC’s and TBC’s. They were recently awarded a top milk quality award from Animal Health Ireland for having consistently low somatic cell counts. They see good grassland management as the key to profitable dairy farming feeding just 500 kg of concentrates per cow per annum. Like all good dairy farmers they are planning an early spring turn out by building up a good bank of grass in their grazing paddocks. This is clearly visible as you drive through the grazing paddocks to their farm yard. This is the key, Noel says to getting cows out as early as February, weather permitting.
They recently completed a new dairy shed for a mixture of young heifer stock and dairy cows. For the fit out of their shed they choose EASYFIX Cow Cubicles. Noel and Raymond said that though the concept of the plastic was new to them, they liked the comfort it could give to dairy cows in terms of preventing cows getting caught, trapped or injured. They also believed that any bruises, haematomas and sores arising from cows lying against a steel framed cubicle would ultimately leads to reduced performance in terms of lower milk yield, silent heat and lower fertility. They also adapted the EASYFIX Cubicle for their younger weanling heifers with a few DIY adjustments.
They kept the centres at 33 inches for the younger animals. The neck rail was placed 35 inches from the bed to the top of the neck rail, 65 inches from the neck rail to the heel stone and 55 inches from the heel stone to the timber brisket board. They lowered the angle of the bottom steel pipe on the wall mounted bracket to almost right angles, thereby dropping the green pipe to allow for the smaller animals. They also dropped the top green pipe to 35 inches. The beauty of the EASYFIX system is that they can easily adjust the settings of the pipes to allow for dairy cows should their farming system change in the future. They did the installation themselves and found the instructions provided by EASYFIX easy to follow and DIY friendly. For their cow mats they choose the EASYFIX Phoenix which is an interlocking rubber mattress with 25mm PU/Latex memory foam encased in a 500 micron plastic and covered with a strong interlocking rubber mat.
Both Noel and Raymond agree that cow comfort is essential to optimum milk production and believe that their extra investment in quality products will pay for itself in a short space of time. Furthermore with the lifting of milk quota in 2015 farmers will be pushing their cows, to get extra yield and good cubicle facilities will be essential.
Though they target early turnout in the spring time, given the changing weather conditions they both agree that indoor comfort is essential for both young and old stock. The Harte brothers are very happy with their investment and welcome any farmers in Donegal or surrounding counties considering building or expanding to visit their farm.