Niall Mason is a dairy and beef farmer who recently went into partnership with his parents John and Carol in Ballyfeedy, County Kerry.
This time of year is hectic on the farm with cows calving, calves to be fed, cows to be AI’ed and fertilizer to be spread. Niall has found Herdwatch really helps him out during the busiest of times.
Paperwork was never an issue for Niall, as he never had the problem of having to do it. When he started farming with his dad a few years ago, he took it upon himself to do things right straight from the start. This is when he signed up for the Herdwatch app.
Initially, when he first purchased the app it was just used for calf registrations and remedies. Three years down the line and there have been huge developments to the app, Niall now finds the breeding section of the app invaluable.
Before the breeding season starts, Niall starts recording his heat detections through the app. This way he knows which cows to keep an eye out for at milking time as sometimes it can be hard to see if the paint has been ruffled on a cow’s back.
Niall does all the AI himself. All the records go straight into Herdwatch as he does them, which eliminates any double recording. Herdwatch is linked to ICBF which means any breeding records recorded on the app will automatically be sent onto ICBF.
All maiden heifers AI’ed will then be released with one of his two angus bulls to clean up any successful serves, as his bull has easy calving traits, while the rest of the cows will be released with his other angus bull.
If Niall sees either of the bulls in action, he records the serve on the spot, therefore very few serves will be missed.
“If you don’t record these serves on the spot, there’s a chance that they could be forgotten about as there is so much going on this time of the year,” he says.
Since returning home to work on the family farm and recording his breeding records through Herdwatch, Niall has seen a significant shortening in his calving period from mid- January to June, down to May. In 2018, Niall plans to shorten the calving interval even more from May back to April.
“It’s not possible to shorten the calving period too much too quickly but year on year we are getting it down another 4 weeks until we are happy with our calving period,” says Niall.
Niall puts all this down to a combination of recording all his breeding on the spot and experience as he acclimatises himself to life on the farm.
According to the experts, optimum calving period should be six weeks however, Niall doesn’t think this is a possibility for him and his dad as the workload is far too high. He prefers to have it around 10 weeks so that he can have some quality of life outside of farming.
Among the benefits of a shortened calving period are getting calves out to grass sooner and using fine days for other jobs such as spreading manure.
All of Niall’s calves are now registered, through Herdwatch and because his breeding records are already in Herdwatch, all he has to do is input the gender, check digit and the calf is registered in seconds.
Furthermore, he can register his pedigree calves through the app and pedigree details go directly to IHFA for him. He also records all his medical records which are then fully compliant for Board Bia audits.
“I’m not really a smart person, so I sell most of my calves privately and all my movements can be done through the Herdwatch ap,” he says.
Herdwatch helps Niall in all aspects of farming life but the main benefit is on the spot recording and on the go information.
This gives him accurate information at all times no matter where he is on the farm. It also benefits his social life as he is not wasting time doing paperwork and sitting in the office on the computer.
Visit www.herdwatch.ie for more information.