11 September 2018

Montbeliarde Open Day

High yielding Montbeliarde herd to welcome visitors on 27th September

High yielding Montbeliarde cows and genetics imported from France, and modern robotic technology, will be the focus of an open day in County Tyrone on Thursday 27th September.

Organised by the Montbeliarde Society, in conjunction with Lely Center Eglish and Dovea Genetics, the event will be hosted by Newtownstewart dairy farmer and businessman Trevor Wilson from 14 Bunderg Road, BT78 4NQ, from 11am to 3pm.

Mr Wilson’s 65-cow Sawl Herd was established in 2016, and is one of a small number of pedigree Montbeliarde herds based in Ireland. Making it even more unique is the fact that cows are managed in a robotic system and are producing an average yield of 10,500 litres at 4.1% butterfat and 3.45% protein.

Dating back to 1889 the red and white Montbeliarde breed originates from a mountainous area in the east of France, and is noted for longevity, health trait, fertility, and milk quality.

Farming started as a hobby for Greenmount College graduate Trevor Wilson, who now operates the pedigree dairy enterprise alongside a successful construction company. “I was interested in farming from an early age, but there is no history of farming in the family, and our small holding couldn’t sustain a farm business,” explained Trevor who gained most of his practical experience and knowledge working on a neighbouring farm.

Trevor seized the opportunity to purchase adjoining land, and now farms 85 acres which comprises of grass and wholecrop cereals.

The modern dairy unit was built on a green field site and is home to the milking herd and followers. “From the outset my main focus was to produce large volumes of milk with good compositional quality. Shortly after I started the project milk price fell so I decided to invest in economic and functional cows.

“My fondness for the Montbeliarde breed came when I attended a sale in England. I was impressed by the fantastic power of the cows – they looked so healthy and had excellent feet and legs.”
Trevor spent two days in France visiting farms. With help from Montbeliarde genetic specialists Coopex, he initially sourced 33 in-calf heifers which were the foundation for the Sawl Herd. A further 16 milking heifers, and 15 maiden heifers, were imported once the Lely Astronaut A4 milking robot was up and running in December 2016.

“Lely is ahead of the competition when it comes to robotic milking technology,” explained Trevor who spent hours researching on websites and YouTube. “I like the Lely Astronaut’s iflow design and the robotic arm under the cow. Lely offers the complete package, including advice on shed design and nutrition. The guys from Lely Center Eglish were a massive help at getting the unit up and running, and really nurtured me along the way,” added Trevor who also invested in Lely’s Discovery barn cleaner, Calm calf feeder, and Juno silage pusher.

The original foundation females are now in third lactation and averaging 35 litres daily. “Cows visit the robot on average 3.3 times per day, and the highest yielding cows in the herd are producing 50 litres,” added Trevor. “All cows and heifers must hit 30 litres or they are sold off the farm.”

Formulated by FarmGate Nutrition, the TMR diet comprises of grass silage and wholecrop barley mixed with a 24% protein blend. Cows also receive a 20% protein nut in the robot, fed to a maximum of 11kgs per head per day depending on yield.

The entire herd is housed under the one roof, and heifers calve into the herd at twenty four-months of age. Trevor operates a year round calving pattern with the aim of keeping 50 to 55 cows milking, and 15 dry.

Trevor is impressed with the stature and the overall health of the Montbeliarde breed. “The health status of the herd is excellent, and the only time the vet visits is for routine scanning. The cows are easy calving, and I have no issues with feet or mastitis.

Montbeliarde cattle are also noted for fertility. Trevor uses AI and is averaging 1.6 straws to conception. When it comes to breeding decisions he selects bulls that will maintain milk yields, improve components and further enhance health traits.

Coopex semen is sourced from local supplier Dovea Genetics, and bulls currently featured in the breeding policy include the high production and easy calving Ioupy; the proven bull Hummer, noted for ease of calving and milk; and Elastar, another proven sire with over 3,000 daughters in his proof.

“I’ve started to use more sexed semen,” explained Trevor, who has a ready market for heifer calves from repeat customers. “I keep a number of replacement females annually, and surplus heifers are sold at between three and six weeks-old. Bull calves are also profitable selling for up to £250 at three weeks of age.”

Trevor works full-time and manages the herd with help from a part-time employee who works two days per week. “Lely’s robotic technology is efficient and reliable, and I can keep an eye on things with remote access to the computer using my mobile phone. “

Visitors to the open day will have an opportunity to hear speakers from the Mountbeliarde Society; Dovea Genetics, Lely Center Eglish and FarmGate Nutrition.

For further information contact Jim Irwin on tel: 07827 884639, or Pearse McNamee on tel: 00353 868106474.

The farm will be signposted off the A5 on Newtownstewart bypass, near the Plumbridge and Gortin turnoff.