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Farm Profile: The O’Brien family show how zero-grazing can have big benefits

obrien-01eSean O’Brien works with his sons John and Declan, pictured, at the family farm in Co. DownThis month, LacPatrick caught up with Sean, John, Declan, Ann and Claire O’Brien to learn how incorporating a zero-grazing system has improved outcomes at their farm in Poyntzpass in Newry, Co. Down. It was an excellent example of two systems working alongside each other using precision livestock management.
Speaking about his family’s approach, Sean O’Brien said: “Four generations of our family have worked this land so we’ve tried many methods over the years. We started off with 75 cows and we now have 425 cows on our farm. From this herd, 325 cows are milked indoors at the home farm and 100 are milked on a traditional grazing platform on an out farm purchased in February 2015. The average milk production of the herd per annum is 8700litres”. Sons John and Declan work alongside Sean to manage the farm.

obrien-02e“After a decade of using a housed TMR system, we bought a zero-grazer for £25,500 sterling in 2016, which meant we kept the cattle indoors all the time and the grass is transported to the cows – grass is fed during the day and silage is fed in the evenings. We decided to adopt the zero-grazing system due to land fragmentation resulting in long distances for cows to travel to-and-from the parlour.”

After using the zero-grazing system for two seasons, the O’Brien family have felt several benefits. “Our meal bill halved immediately. We’ve had no problems with animal health or livestock management due to good facilities being available for movement or routine procedures. Artificial insemination is used alongside stock bulls.  The accommodation is bright and has excellent ventilation. Grass is completely utilised in each paddock on rotations. The grass is cut at approximately 4cm and brought into the cattle and we carry out 20% reseeding on the farm each year”, John explained. 

Caption: Sean O’Brien works with his sons John and Declan, pictured, at the family farm in Co. Down.