Irish producer likes feed management system

Dairy farmer says milk quality and herd health benefit from using the Keenan InTouch system to increase mix accuracy and efficiency

A dairy farmer in Ireland reports good reviews for a feed management and support system that continually reviews and advises producers on their herd’s nutritional needs.

Seamus Byrne, 63, milks 190 pedigree Holstein cows at Ardcath in the Republic of Ireland with his wife, Mary.

He said he is realizing improved milk quality and herd fertility by using the Keenan InTouch technology.

The herd produces an average yield of 9,000 litres per cow per year.

In times when gross margins are tight, Byrne is one of the lucky farmers making a healthy profit from milking cows, a feat he credits to keeping a tight eye on the costs of production.

By selling some of his milk on fixed contracts and the rest at normal rates, Byrne receives 65 cents per litre on average and estimates his cost of production at 39 cents per litre.

Byrne said he has used the Keenan system for 20 years and in that time, has worked with only three Keenan diet feeders. His current one, just about two years old, is the Keenan 360 model with a capacity of 20 cubic metres.

This model is fitted with the InTouch technology that works as a management tool for farmers to increase mix accuracy and efficiency.

“At first I was a bit reluctant to use the technology but now I wouldn’t go back to the old method,” said Byrne. “All I have to do is use the remote control from the telehandler and the control unit on the wagon tells me what to load up. It really does all the work for you.”

With only 33 acres available nearby to use for grazing, Byrne keeps his cows housed most of the time, allowing them out for a few hours in the day, on a 21-day rotation, during the summer.

Three cuts of silage are harvested from 55 acres on another farm, as well as 36 acres of corn that Byrne grows.

His milk is currently sitting at four percent butterfat and 3.5 percent protein but that’s not where it was before starting to use the InTouch system.

By using the Keenan system, Byrne increased his protein content by 0.3 percent and his butterfat by the same margin.

“We were having trouble getting the butterfat over four percent,” said Byrne. “Having introduced the InTouch system and using Alltech minerals we saw the butterfat jump to 4.1 percent at its highest and the protein to 3.5 percent.”

Byrne operates a predominantly spring calving herd and also witnessed his herd fertility improve on the InTouch system. His cows are lasting five lactations with a 20 percent replacement rate.

“Our calving index fell from over 400 days down to 380 days and we have 60 percent of the cows holding to the first service using AI (artificial insemination).”

Byrne feeds his dairy cows a ration containing 10 kilograms of brewers grains, 10 kg corn, 25 kg grass silage, 1.5 kg straw and 7 kg of a blend formulated for the specific needs of the herd.

The InTouch live system can detect when there is a problem with rations and send an alert to the farmer and the InTouch office.

On one occasion, the butterfat content of Byrne’s herd dropped and the InTouch system picked up an inconsistency in the ration that Byrnewas mixing.

“It wasn’t long before I received a phone call from the InTouch team asking me what was wrong with the mix,” Byrne said.

“In actual fact, I had run out of the normal straw I was using and had switched to (rapeseed) straw, which was lower feeding value. That is why the butterfat dropped and is another benefit of the system.”

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