Despite the challenging weather, Donal and Eileen Hayes’ herd has got off to a great start in 2023. Cows went out to grass on 15 February and grazing conditions were ideal right up to very recently. During the wet weather they target the drier paddocks and those with good paddock access to try and keep grass in the diet.

Last year, the herd produced 498kg MS/cow, which is back a bit on other years but Donal and Eileen reckon the wet back-end to the year didn’t help. The farm grew 14t DM/ha and they are hoping to repeat that this year, but with a tweaked fertiliser strategy.

The soil sample results show that all the farm is at optimum levels for P, K and lime which is an extraordinary result and testament to the investment the Hayes family have made in soil fertility over the last few years. The big change for this year is that all nitrogen will be applied in the form of protected urea. Donal is very happy with how it has worked and notes that it’s cheaper than CAN and that he also gets a rebate for using protected urea through the Kerry Evolve Dairy Sustainability Programme.

The Hayes family will start milk recording around St Patrick’s Day and this information will be used to evaluate selective dry cow therapy performance. Selective dry cow therapy was completed on 50% of the herd at drying off and they are very keen to see the results. The trend to date is looking very positive as bulk tank SCC average is currently 108,000 cells/ml.

\ Valerie O'Sullivan

The Hayes family completed the following measures in the 2022 Evolve Dairy Sustainability Programme: nutrient management planning, applied protected urea, milk recording, fed low protein feed, participated in the herd health programme, grass measurement and attended approved development events

They have been proactive in recording disease incidence for the last number of years and are pleased that they will receive a €100 DairyCare incentive through Evolve 2023. The river Laune is bordering Donal’s farm and he is definitely going to avail of the water quality initiative in this year’s Evolve programme. This provides an on-farm water quality assessment with a Kerry Agribusiness water quality advisor and incentivisation to undertake remedial action(s) if required.

Since Evolve’s launch in 2022, 94% of Kerry Agribusiness milk suppliers have engaged in the programme and embraced science-based actions and best practices to improve their family farms. With an emphasis on increasing efficiency and lowering the environmental impact of dairy farming, the Evolve programme has helped to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices across milk suppliers’ farms.A key part of efficiency and sustainability on dairy farms is getting breeding management and genetics of the herd right. The Hayes herd is high-EBI, with an average EBI of €211. With around six weeks to go before the next breeding season, Donal is putting the finishing touches to bull selection, with all high EBI Holstein Friesian bulls being used again this year.

The carbon footprint on the Hayes farm, assessed recently for the 2022 production year was 0.81 kgCO2e/kgFPCM which is very good. All the replacement heifers are bred to AI, with all these calving at 22-26 months of age.

\ Valerie O'Sullivan

Achieving this key performance indicator is important as it is proven to have a positive impact on reducing GHG emissions.

The stocking rate on the farm is 2.7 livestock units/ha with all replacement heifers and silage on the home block, meaning Donal doesn’t have to travel roads to see stock which reduces the workload. Last year, 985kg of meal was fed per cow.