UGS visit Cloughmills dairy farm


Cloughmills dairy farmers George and Alastair Forsythe hosted a farm walk for members of the Ulster Grassland Society (UGS) on Thursday 26th October 2017.  The event provided an opportunity to see what practical steps had been taken to mitigate the poor weather in the autumn and what plans have been made for the winter.


The 99 hectare, all grass farm  supports a135 cow dairy autumn to spring calving herd along with 40 replacements reared each year. Bull calves are sold for export.

5 years ago they built a purpose built calf unit – day old to weaning and 4 years ago  a  dry cow house was erected

Laneways have been resurfaced and some new tracks put in 2012. The farm is fenced for 24-36hr grazings.

The cows are milked through a 16/32 swing-over Alfa Laval Herringbone milking parlour.  The present yield is around 6000 litres with around 3000 litres coming from forage. Approximately 1.0 tonnes / cow of concentrates is fed.


Calves are reared on an automatic milk feeder and after weaning are moved onto cubicles. As replacements they are served at 15 months of age for calving at 2 year old.

16-20 acres reseeded each year by undersowing winter wheat. Soil sampling is routinely carried out with the aim of keeping the soil pH over 6.2. Slurry is applied by a contractor using an umbilical system with 1st cut silage receiving 2000 gls/acre plus 70 units of nitrogen, 15 units p and 30 units K.  Slurry is also applied aftyer first cut if possible.  Grazing is also applied to grazing ground.


Two cuts of silage made by contractor with total of 140 acres needed to meet winter feed requirements. 50% of silage bought in owing to stocking rate


  • Approx 110 acres in grazing platform. Remaining 30 acres down road can be grazed at shoulders
  • Currently 45 hectares allocated to the herd to give a stocking rate of 3.3 cows/ha (1.35 cows/acre).
  • Grazing by day from 28th February and by night from 10th March.
  • Paddock grazing system used with areas selected on basis of grass cover and ground conditions.
  • Target grazing cover is 1900 kgDM/ha grazed down to 1550  kgDM/ha. Agrinet grazing program used
  • Make bales of poor quality paddocks when possible
  • Pre mow paddocks if quality deteriorating
  • Back fence when conditions deteriorate.
  • Good laneway system and drinking points.


All concentrates (14% protein) allocated through milking parlour. Cows get 2kg/head and cows milking >35litres get an additional 0.4kgs/litre above base of 35 litres


  • Compact calving pattern with calving starting on 10th Feb and finishing on 15th April
  • Breeding starts on 1st May for 12 weeks – AI for 6 weeks, then Hereford bull.
  • Fertility performance – Empty rate 5%
  • Focus on EBI when selecting bulls; high fertility and components, particularly protein %
  • First lactation cows dried off for minimum of 12 weeks irrespective of yield in autumn.
  • Older cows have a 60 day dry period and cows in poorer condition get a longer dry period.
  • Cows not in calf after breeding period are sold in September

        Vaccination programme – BVD, IBR and Lepto


Herd housed early November depending on conditions. 

Dry cows get silage and dry cow minerals over winter



Members listen attentively to Alastair as he outlines details of the farm business
Members listen attentively to Alastair as he outlines details of the farm business

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Members listen attentively to Alastair as he outlines details of the farm business
Calves at the automatic feeder pens
Yound heifer calves introduced to the cubicle area

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