- Date: 14 Jun 2011
- Venue: the Morrison Family farm at Armoy
Large turnout for Grassland Society Summer Walk
Well in excess of 100 visitors took part in this week’s Ulster Grassland Society Summer walk, hosted by Armoy dairy farmers David and Stephen Morrison.
The father and son team milk 190 cows, which are currently averaging 8,600 litres at 4.31% butterfat and 3.33% protein. The scope of the farm and the quality of the stock on view were added to by the warm, sunny conditions, which were enjoyed by everyone taking part.
The Morrison herd is managed in order to maximise milk output from forage.
“We take two cuts of grass silage annually,” Stephen explained to the visitors in attendance
“A further 35 acres of winter wheat are grown for wholecrop. Re-seeding is
a central part of our grassland management policy, which is why the cereal
enterprise works in so well.”
Comprehensive herd performance information is available to David and
Stephen courtesy of their commitment to benchmarking and Promar herd recording. The current calving index is 380 days and the replacement rate 18%. The Morrison farm takes in 350 acres: 280 of which is owned – the rest rented.
The cows calve during the autumn and winter with 150 normally calving
“There are currently 120 cows at grass,” Stephen commented.
“We kept 70 Spring calvers in until we had taken the first cut of silage, which this year was cut on May 23rd. They are then put out during the day until the autumn, so as to ensure they get the best possible start to their lactation.”
“AI is used widely on the herd, the aim being to produce cows with plenty
of milk, which will stay in the herd for a long number of lactations. We
also have a sweeper beef bull. All the beef calves finished on the farm. Our current herd replacement rate is 18%”
During the winter months the herd is split into high and lower yielding
“The high yielding group is fed to 32 litres courtesy of a TMR made up of
grass silage, wholecrop and a specifically matched blend,” Stephen further explained.
“They are topped up in parlour with concentrate at a rate of 0.5 kilos per litre. Lower yielders are fed to 20 litres in the shed and then topped up in parlour at a rate of 0.45 kilos per litre. Overall, we feed 2.58 tonnes of concentrate per cow, which works out at 0.3 kilos of meal fed per kilo of milk produced. We are currently producing 3686 litres per cow from forage. The cows are milked in an 18 point swing over DairyMaster parlour.”
Optimum use is made of organic manures throughout the year on the Morrison farm. For example, slurry is applied to all the grazing area, using a trailing shoe,
before the end of February each year.
Heifer rearing is another crucial aspect to David and Stephen’s approach to
the management of the herd.
“Our aim is to calve heifers for the first time at twenty four months,” Stephen commented.
“The availability of a computerised calf feeder on the farm has made the attainment of this target considerably easier. Meal feeding is continued while the calves are at grass during the first year, so as to ensure they meet the height and weight targets for breeding at around 14 to fifteen months.”
The Morrisons also believe strongly in the need for farmers to work closely with the environment. Since 2007, they have been eligible for support under the Countryside Management Scheme.
“We have found the scheme extremely useful, particularly from a fencing point of view,” Stephen continued.
Ongoing investment has been a feature of David and Stephen’s commitment to their business. In recent years, this has included the building of new sheds and adding to the farm’s slurry storage capacity.
Looking to the future, the father and son team believe that investment in new technology will pay a dividend on two fronts: improved herd performance and making better use of their own time.
“We are currently looking at how the new IT controlled heat detection systems can be put to best use of the farm,” Stephen commented.
“Our aim is to increase milk output per cow to 9,000 litres from 2.5 tonnes of meal.
“We hope to achieve this by getting a better grasp on the herd’s day-to-day performance, by improving grassland performance and by using new technology to allow us to breed and feed our cows in a more efficient manner.”
The event concluded with a vote of thanks given by the Grassland Society’s incoming president Drew McConnell.