Beech Park Farm – a growing family of farmers with BDG
The farm has 110 acres available for dairy cows and young animals to graze. Hogg’s clear goal is to efficiently maximize the production of grazed grass while having a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Superior quality pasture and grass is a key priority on the farm with 3,400 liters produced from forage, the average feed purchased for the herd is 2.3 t / cow resulting in feed efficiency total of 0.27 kg / l.
The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprises (CAFRE) Business Development Group has been instrumental in the development of the business since the program began in 2015.
Business Development Group (BDG) meetings allow farmers to get in touch with CAFRE dairy advisers to explore developments in their farm with the aim of improving the technical efficiency and profitability of their farm.
Tom said: “The local focus group gave us the opportunity to improve our dairy business based on the experiences of other farmers. This group approach builds on knowledge within the group and has proven to be an effective method for increasing the profitability of the operation.
The Hoggs found it beneficial in terms of access to information, research and also the ability to visit other dairy farmers.
On the Hogg farm there is no need for fancy systems, just a simple, efficient and cost effective system. Cows are milked in a 12 point milking parlor with ACR. Tom manually configures feed allocation to help target concentrate feed.
While in the BDGs, Alan and Tom both saw Computerized Feeding for Performance as a beneficial technology adoption and at some point will be included in the system.
Cows are grazed as early as possible, with intermittent grazing early in the season. The land around Beech Park Farm can be heavy and it is therefore important to prevent poaching. Cows will come out full time from mid / late April and grass measurement takes place on the farm throughout the season.
Through key talking points on grazing techniques, soil performance and grass quality within Hogg’s BDG, they were able to improve grazing infrastructure to allow for an extended grazing period, effectively giving to the herd more days in the grass.
In recent years, the goal has been a compact calving model. The results of this are now filtering into the system with higher first serve submission rates and a better workload model for everyone involved in the farm.
All heifers and the upper third of the cows are mated to the AI with sexed semen with Aberdeen Angus semen used on the middle third and a beef bull used to sweep the lower third.
Previously, stock bulls had been used extensively, but the Hoggs moved away from that and developed a more strategic breeding plan to bring genetic gain to the herd.
When the cows need to dry up, a separate lot is set up and the cows are housed for 60 days prior to calving. Dry cows are fed 1.5 kg of dry cow mix via an RTM, with high fiber forage and free access to lick blocks. Freshly calved cows and heifers are reintroduced into the herd 24 hours after calving, except in the event of a particular problem.
The Hogg family understands that the proper transition of dry cows is essential to having a healthy dairy cow and calf across the board. On-farm colostrum management is essential, with calves receiving colostrum by teat within the first 6 hours and the majority being tested and excess frozen. For the first 3 days, the calves are in individual pens and receive breast milk, then move into pens of four and are powdered for 6-8 weeks.
It is in this attention to detail that Linda excels in producing strong, healthy calves to replace the herd.
Since Tom returned from his travels in New Zealand, he has been dedicated to continuing to increase efficiency and profitability on the farm. An important area of agricultural development is to try to reduce the use of antibiotics in the herd.
Alan and Tom use milk recording information that highlights cows with potential problems. A recent BDG meeting highlighted how beneficial this information can be in terms of milk urea levels, milk components and also helped streamline the ability to start selective treatment of dry cows and hence , selection for the genetic improvement of the herd.
At the start of December, the herd weighs an average of 26 liters with 4.47% fat and 3.5% protein. Going forward, the attention to detail by the Hogg family along with the constructive discussions and feedback from their BDG will continue to drive improvements for the business.
The BDG program is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.