AHV: It’s All About The Education
A commitment made by the McKay family, who own the Rowandale Holstein herd, is opening new business opportunities that will deliver a sustainable future for everyone involved in this fast-evolving venture.
Farming 400 acres on the outskirts of Ballymena, Darren McKay works closely with his father Danny in managing this predominantly grass-based operation.
Danny explained: “The farm is home to a herd of 150 Holstein Friesian cows and a 200-strong flock of breeding ewes. We also grow 50 acres of barley on an annual basis.
“Last year saw the installation of a Lely A5 robot, which is used to milk out first calving heifers. This approach in splitting the younger animals from the older girls is allowing them to settle in better to their lactation.”
In The Beginning
Underpinning the McKay’s relationship with their fast-growing customer base is a commitment to produce the food sold in their shop with a sustainable approach. Danny takes up the story:
“We started milking 13 years ago. Back then there was no good solution to deal with udder health issues.
“But even at that stage, we knew that this approach was far from satisfactory. We kept getting repeat cases and the culling rate was unacceptably high.”
The transition to an animal health management programme was facilitated by the family’s decision to use the AHV solution range, primarily to improve the overall health of the animals, which in turn promotes longevity and productivity.
Darren McKay commented:
“We took the decision to go with AHV three years ago. And, in truth, it wasn’t plain sailing at the start. It took time to get used to the protocols and learn how they can be best used. It was very much a case of having the patience to find out about how this entire new way of managing animals, from an animal health point of view, actually works.
“We also received tremendous support and advice from the AHV team. The relationship with AHV has really come into its own over the past year or so. Now we have very few udder health problems.”
The First Step
The McKay’s first experience of the AHV solution range was the AHV Extra Tablet.
Darren further explained: “We took this approach to support cows with udder issues. Seeing the outcome of using this product we decided to branch out into the AHV product portfolio. These include AHV ASPI, which is a supportive liquid used to promote recovery.
“We also use AHV Booster Powder to re-hydrate cows; the AHV Metri Tablet to support them after calving; and we have recently started using the AHV Calf Start powder in order to give the calves a boost in the first 14 days of life when they are at their most vulnerable.”
He added: “We have found that there is a need to have patience with the products: no panic at the start.”
“If there have been issues that we do not understand, the members of the AHV team have always been available to answer these for us and to provide the guidance that we need.”
Danny specifically highlighted the role of the milking robots in flagging up issues at a very early stage.
He said: “We have had very few severe cases since the robot was installed. It is flagging up problem cows at a very early stage. These can be effectively dealt with by the immediate administration of an Extra tablet.
“We have been working closely with AHV for the past three years. As we get a better grasp of the products’ mode of action, it’s very much a case of putting them to more effective use within the herd.”
Darren concluded: “Our plan for the future is to have a herd of healthy and productive cows with a focus on keeping these cows in the herd due to their longevity.
“We also want to have healthy produce for our farm shop. We believe that consumers are pushing for more healthy produce. We want to be the front runner in supplying produce that is healthy and local.”
The Farm Shop
Significantly, a high proportion of the produce coming from the business is being used to further develop an already thriving farm shop. Danny’s other son Brendan is the man in charge of the ‘Glensway Tavern and Farm Shop’.
He explained: “The shop is supplying customers with meats and dairy products from our family farm. We want to source the best quality products for our food. And the most effective way of guaranteeing this is to bring in the produce directly from our own farm. We know that the produce is coming from a healthy and well looked after herd.
“The next step for the farm shop is to start selling our own milk and ice cream. We have a pasteuriser and separator, which will allow us to make that happen.”