Donal’s dairy herd is among the best in the country

Sian Moloughney

Sian Moloughney

One of Ireland’s top breeding dairy herds is located just outside Clonmel, near the village of Newcastle on the farm of Donal O’Loughlin.

Donal, who has 108 cows on 200 acres, hosted two discussion groups on his farm recently, to show them his operation and to invite the views and suggestion of other local farmers.

The O’Loughlin herd consists of Scandinavian Reds - a cross breed of Holstein and Fresian cows that Donal began to raise after he took over the family farm, about 15 years ago.

The farmland was originally bought into the family by Donal’s parents, Daniel and Mary, who came up from Carrick on Suir. He says his father worked very hard and made a success of the breeding herd he started.

The O’Loughlin family celebrated a new addition in recent weeks when Donal’s wife Noreen gave birth to their first child, Dara.

Donal’s long term plan for his farm is to increase his herd - but this is something he can’t do until the abolition of milk quotas, due to take place in the coming years. He had to reduce his herd from last year, because farmers are penalised for going over quota. The quota system has “put a halt to my gallop,” he says, and ideally he would like to get his herd to “maybe 140.”

The abolition of milk quotas will be a good thing, he thinks, and he says anyone in dairying that he has spoken to is of a similar opinion. “The general consensus is that people are looking forward to the quota going,” he told the Nationalist.

Two Teagasc discussion groups, the Galtee Group and the ANC Group, visited the O’Loughlin farm on October 6. Donal himself is a member of the ANC (Ardfinnan, Newcastle, Clogheen) Group and he has hosted them on his farm in the past. This time the Galtee Group also requested to take part and Donal was delighted to welcome the membership.

About 40 farmers in all visited on the day as well as a specialist from Moorpark, the Teagasc facility, discussion group advisor Tom Downey and Kevin Barron of the local Teagasc office.

The groups looked at the herd, calves, heifers in calf and the grassland.

“It’s always nice to have other farmers to your farm to give their opinions or suggestions on things I could be doing,” according to Donal, who said he likes to hear opinions and enjoys the lively debates and says they always learn from each other.

The EBI (economic breeding index) of the O’Loughlin herd has increased by E28 to E152 since last year, under Donal’s plan which included selling 70 low EBI animals.

The EBI is an index used by Teagasc to measure the profits and profitability of cows, and takes into account milk and fertility.

Donal explains that his herd’s EBI is weighed towards fertility. He wants a herd of fertile cows as he believes it is easier to introduce milk than fertility.

He started using Scandinavian Red bulls ten years ago in recent years some Jersey Bulls. The herd’s average calving interval was 363 days.

The herd has been milked once a day since August and are producing 12 litres a day. Since the change their fat went up 0.45% to 4.85% and protein increased by 0.6% to 4.1%, which is delivering 43.75c/per litre.