Project: Agricultural Science Name: Ciara Murphy Farm: Rathconrath Co. Westmeath Livestock: Breed of Cow: On my farm the farmer bred British Friesian Cattle. Friesian cattle are a breed of cattle known today as the world’s highest production dairy animal. Originating in Europe Friesian’s were bred it what is now called the Netherlands. The farmer chose British Friesian over any other breed as he finds they are a more dual-purpose cow. This means the cow produces good milk and also has a good conformation. Breeding: On my farm the farmer breeds his British Friesian herd with a stock bull.
This is a bull kept on the farm for breeding purpose’s to bring the Heifer’s into heat. My farmer’s herd was a spring-calving herd which meant he aims to have his herd calving down in mid-February. Before calving the cow should have a body condition score (BCS) in the range of 3. 0 to 3. 5 he told me as a low BCS before calving decreases the lactation yield of the cow. Husbandry: On my farm the cows are put out to grass during the summer months and are fed grass out on the land. My farmer works on a rotational grazing system in which the land is divided into 25 paddocks.
The herd grazes down one paddock each day and is then moved to the next paddock. Fertilizer is spread on each grazed paddock after the herd has been moved. There are many advantages from paddock grazing as I have learned from my farmer. For example fresh, highly digestible leafy grass is available every day for grazing. On my farm the farmer also practices the leader follower system. This means the young calves get to graze on the next paddock before the cows. This means they get the fresh grass which is needed for them in order in grow. In the winter the calves are brought into a cubicle shed and fed high quality silage.
This happens as the weather is too cold for them during the winter and there would be no grass for them to graze on. This shed is well ventilated and draught free as poor ventilation can lead to pneumonia in calves. The cows are housed in a slatted shed. This again is well ventilated and cleaned out every day. The cows are also given rubber mats to lie down on for comfort. Calving: On my farm the farmer aims to have the cows calving around mid-February. Before calving the cows should be on a high plain of nutrition as to maintain a good BCS. The farmer also isolates the cow from the rest of the herd and places her in a clean dry calving pen.
The farmer also highlighted to me that it is important to have a calving jack, calving ropes and gloves available in case the cow needs assistance. When the calf is born it is important that the farmer allows the cow to lick the calf to stimulate circulation. My farmer also dips the calf’s navel in iodine to prevent infection. Feeding colostrum is vital in protecting the new-born calf from disease. Disease control: There were very few diseases on my farm however my farmer did say Clinical mastitis was the most prominent disease on the farm. The symptoms of this disease are inflammation of the udder, affecting one or more quarters.
There are also visible changes in the milk clots and the milk may be more watery. My farmer said the easiest way of treating this bacterium is antibiotics. However if you don’t want this bacteria to infect your herd then there are a number of prevention tips you can take. For example ensuring your milking machine works correctly as faulty machines damage teats. Also use teat disinfectant after milking. Dirt on udder or teat increases infection. Crops: Varieties: Although the farm was mostly dairy animals the farmer did grow potatoes on a small scale. The farmer chose to sow Golden Wonder potatoes as part of ware production.
There are many advantages to them for example high yield and good eating quality. The farmer rotates the crop every year as it prevents the build-up of potato cyst nematode. Cultivation practises: Potatoes need deep and well-cultivated soil. Ground left without vegetation on it over the winter months is susceptible to nitrogen leaching. As a result, ploughing to a depth of 22cm, rotovation and bed formation occur in spring to produce a fine seedbed. Potatoes are then sown 10 cm below the ridge by hand. I learned from talking to the farmer that the seeds should be spaced 20-25cm apart to help with individual growth of the plant.
Establishment: On my farm the farmer does a soil test before he sows the potato crop. This is to find out the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) content of the soil. The farmer then applies a compound fertilizer such as 10-10-20 to their potato crop before planting the seed. This is done by broadcasting the fertilizer and then incorporating it into the soil in one of the final cultivations. Weed control: Once 15 to 20 per cent of the potato plants have emerged after sowing the potato crop is sprayed with an herbicide. The contact herbicide kills all plants including the potatoes however the potato crops will quickly recover.
I was told the residual herbicide prevents any weed seeds germinating. Weeds were also controlled on my farm by a process called earthing up. This covers the growing haulms (shoots and leaves) with more soil and prevents light getting to the tubers and turning them green. Green tubers cannot be eaten as these tubers contain poisonous alkaloids. Diseases and Pests: The farmer said he never really experiences any diseases or pests on his farm as he looks out for the blight warnings from Met Eireann and sprays his crop with insecticide.
However I did find out that that blight is an airborne fungus and can be seen when yellow spots on the leaf turn black. The most reliable way to prevent this is to spray the potato crop with a fungicide Harvesting: The farmer harvests his crop in late September. As I have mentioned above the haulms are killed off using a contact herbicide. The potatoes are then left for a further 3 weeks to allow the skins of the tubers to harden. The potatoes are then taken up by hand on the farm. Care is taken to remove all potatoes so that none are left behind. If potatoes remain after the harvest hey are called groundkeepers and they can be a source of disease for future potato crops. Yield: As the farmer is not a commercial potato grower his yield is quite small. Although I didn’t get the exact number of tonnes I do know main crops have a yield of around 30 to 40 tonnes per hectare as they are harvested when they are fully mature. Grasslands: Varieties: On my farm my farmer chose Perennial ryegrass over any other. This is because Perennial ryegrass is suited to well-drained soils which he has. His soil is also fertile and responds well to nitrogen fertilisation.
As it is a perennial species, it will persist in a well-managed pasture for many years. There are many advantages to having perennial ryegrass on your farm which my farmer pointed out. For example it has a higher palatability, productivity and digestibility in comparison to other grasses. Cultivation practices: When the farmer on my farm wants to reseed the grassland he uses a method known as direct sowing. Direct sowing is the most common method of sowing grass in Ireland. First of all the land is ploughed which has the advantage of burying the weed seeds if any.
The land is then harrowed to create a fine seedbed. The seed is then sown using a seed drill. This all happens in September as frost and winter conditions could kill the seedlings. Tillering is also encouraged on the farm. Tillering is the development of side shoots in a plant. This is encouraged by a process known as topping. Topping is mowing the grass to a height of 5 to 7cm and is carried out post-grazing to remove any remaining grass. Photos: 1: Example of one of the cows on my farm. 2: The silage pit on my farm. 3: The housing for the cattle during the winter.