'The welfare of our cows is at the core of what we do as dairy farmers - we meet the needs of every cow every day'
Our cows may be here to produce milk but we want them to have a really good life while they do it. They graze fresh grass outdoors during the summer and stay indoors during the winter. We choose Holsteins for their ability to produce lots of milk and milk solids from a mainly grass based diet.
All our cows are born here on the farm. Weaned from milk at two months, turned out on pasture at six months, bred at seventeen months, and after having their first calves at twenty-six months are introduced to being milked.
By the time they are three years old, these hard-working girls are all business, producing milk of exceptional quality and providing a perfect foundation for a long life at Viewmount. We believe that a cow that's comfortable and well taken care of is a valuable asset - we take care of her, she takes care of us.
All cows at Viewmount Farm are registered with the Irish Holstein Friesian Association and have an official name and pedigree (family tree), similar to purebred horses or dogs. Our herd is one of the oldest registered herds in Ireland.
The first 'Viewmount' cows were registered in 1961 with the British Friesian Association and many of the present cow families in the herd are descended from these animals. This pedigree information helps us to improve our breeding decisions ensuring the quality, profitability and herd-life of our dairy cows.
Grass plays a vital role in the feeding of all stock on our farm in both summer and winter. It is the most nutritional and cost effective feed available which explains why it is the only crop we grow on our farm.
Target turn out date to grass is mid March but this depends on weather conditions. For the first two weeks the cows will remain indoors at night before going out full time in April.
Grazing is carefully managed as cows move from paddock to paddock on a daily basis. This ensures they always have fresh, high quality grass in front of them. Our cows are capable of producing 20 litres of milk from grass alone, above that we feed 0.5kgs of concentrate per litre produced.
The silage ground is grazed first and is closed before mid-April for harvesting at the end of May. The season usually lasts until the end of October or early November when the herd is housed for the winter months.
Grass silage (fermented grass) is our main winter feed and again quality is very important. 50 acres of first cut silage is harvested at the end of May when grass is at its peak in terms of nutrition and quantity. This is ensiled in a walled pit and will be fed to the milking cows. The second cut of 35 acres is harvested at the end of July. Quality is usually not as good as first cut but it is an ideal feed for dry cows and replacement heifers. The milking herd can spend up to five months indoors during winter when they are fed a mixture of grass silage, straw, soya and a high protein ration.
Strange as it may sound, cows are a lot like people – give them a clean place to live, fresh food and water to eat and drink along with a little TLC and they will thrive. It’s here that quality milk gets its start. We understand the importance of keeping our cows healthy and comfortable.
When designing and building the free stall accommodation, cow comfort was a high priority. Rubber matresses are installed in all cubicles. These are cleaned down three times a day and are covered with sawdust to keep the bed clean and dry. The alley where cows stand to eat consists of open walkways.
To ensure dry and clean stalls the manure is removed from the alleys by automated hydraulic scrapers and ends up in a tank underneath the floor.
The houses are naturally ventilated to maintain a cool climate with fresh 'Atlantic' air blowing through. An automatic cow brush is also installed to keep the cows clean and lice free. The ladies seem to like the brush a lot judging by the queue to use it!
New born calves are raised in straw bedded individual pens for four weeks and are then put in larger group pens according to age and size. Proper ventilation in the calf house is a vital component in keeping our youngsters healthy. Calves require plenty of fresh air but they must also be protected from cold draughts.
New born calf
Producing milk is thirsty work!
Harvesting first cut silage
New born calf