Banbridge dairy producers and brothers Darren and Stuart McMurran have made it to the NMR/RABDF Gold Cup final for a second year running.
As one of six finalists, they will compete for the top title to be announced in July. In the meantime, they can enjoy the fine achievement so far, having been short-listed from 957 qualifying herds.
This 300-cow Holstein herd has yielded 10,829kg of milk in the year ending September 2013 – nearly 300kg up on the previous year – with fat at 3.84% and protein at 3.06% on three times a day milking.
And the brothers are confident that this steady increase in yields is standing them in good stead as they drive towards their target of 12,000kg of milk by September 2014.
“We won’t do this though at the expense of controlling feed costs and maintaining cow health,” says Darren who takes the main lead in the herd’s nutrition, cropping and staff management whilst Stuart deals with day to day cow and young stock management.”
Their 202 hectares are cropped with hybrid grass for five years and rotated with winter barley that is used for wholecrop. And both Darren and Stuart believe in taking a consistent approach to everything that is done on the farm. Four crops of silage are taken a year by an ‘in house’ team. “We do this to make sure we cut grass at exactly the right time,” adds Stuart. “We aim to feed a uniform ration to the cows the year round. So we want to make sure forage is as good as it possible can be by harvesting just at the right growth stage. We also make baled haylage from mature swards that have received no slurry at all. This forage is low in Potash and is fed specifically to the dry cows.”
With the herd’s average lifetime daily yield running at a high level of 14.82kg, an increase of 1.55kg/day in 12 months, it is clear that cow health and fertility must be in good shape. The calving interval to September 2013 is 398 days and they calve heifers at 25.5 months.
The brothers rely on the Genus RMS breeding service to guide them on choice of bulls but their priorities are legs and feet, then fat and protein per cent.
“Milk quality is important,” says Darren. “We recently moved buyers to Fane Valley Dairies to support out local co-op and to take advantage of the better payment and bonus structure. We now have to make sure we produce the milk that can attract these better prices.”
The McMurrans are firmly committed to improving their unit with feed efficiency, milk from forage and the return per cubicle space being the focus points.
Their business will be judged by RABDF’s Lyndon Edwards, 2011 Gold Cup winner Tom King and NMR Chairman Philip Kirkham. The 2014 winner and runner up will be announced at the Livestock Event, NEC on July 2 on the NMR stand.