In Ireland, most dairy farms operate a block calving system whereby most calving takes place in a specific time period. This allows them to take advantage of seasonal peaks in grass growth and the resulting high milk yields. This, combined with the opportunity for heifer calves to spend the summer at grass when calved in spring, makes for extremely cost-effective feeding.
It goes without saying that every dairy farmer does things differently, wherever they are in the world, and the same applies to the Hynes family in Cork, South West Ireland.
Peter Hynes took over his stepfather’s dairy farm in 2010 and runs this grass-based pedigree Holstein herd with the help of his wife Paula and their daughters Chloe, Becky and Georgina. As well as winning Farmer of the Year in 2017, the couple is very passionate about raising awareness of mental health in agriculture and founded Ag Mental Health Week.
We caught up with Peter, who operates a spring calving system, for the lowdown on ‘calving 2021’ and his newly purchased Urban Pro Calf feeder.
What are your three biggest learnings from this year’s calving season?
Adding new facilities and investing in a new Urban Pro Calf feeder has greatly helped us reduce our workload while allowing us more time to work on other aspects of calf rearing. We have also found that keeping calves on the farm for longer has allowed us to increase revenue from calf sales due to having stronger calves. This has helped increase farm-to-farm sales, many of which have since contacted us saying they want to purchase calves again next season. That speaks absolute volumes, doesn’t it?
Did you do anything differently this year? And how did that impact your calving season?
The new Urban Pro feeder was an investment for this season, as we wished to keep calves on the farm for longer. We also used a lot of Simmental semen in 2020, along with purchasing a Simmental bull. We were extremely happy with the quality of Simmental calves born in 2021 and have since purchased another Simmental bull as a result. As dairy farmers, we feel it is vital from a viability perspective that we produce a quality beef calf.
What impact do you think nutrition has on your calves?
Nutrition is vital for young calves. We require all our heifers to calve at 24 months, and the preparation for this starts at a young age. Likewise, we treat all the beef calves as we would a replacement dairy heifer. Ensuring they get good quality fibre sources for early rumen development is key.
The Urban Pro has given us vastly better control over milk replacer feeding and also well-managed weaning. We can see what each calf is drinking on screen, which enables accurate monitoring and management to ensure that all calves meet their potential.
For you, farming is about family. What does it mean to you that your daughter calved her first twins this year?
Seeing Becky calve her first set of twins was a proud moment for us. It has been great watching her grow into a confident young farmer with a great understanding of livestock. It was also lovely to see her doing so many interviews afterwards, especially for the main evening news. It was a real boost to her confidence and highlighted her maturity in how well she handled the interviews.
What message would you give to other young farmers just starting out in agriculture?
The one message we would give to any young farmer is to have sufficient good calf rearing facilities. This will greatly ease the workload in the spring and help give your replacement heifers the best start in life. They are the future of the herd.
We’ve gotten to know Peter Hynes and his family really well over the years in their close relationship with Volac and his keenness for promoting mental health awareness in agriculture. It’s safe to say he definitely does things his own way, and it’s great that his whole family are in on it too.
We’d love to hear your calving season stories, too. Join us on social media and use #FeedForGrowthCalving2021 for your chance to be featured.
Huge thanks to Peter for giving up your time and sharing your insight with our followers.
Published on: 08 September 2021
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