Proactive Animal Health a Priority for Carbery Milk Quality Award Nominee – Hawkes Fami
By Richard Halleron
Jessica Hawkes (Jessie) milks 140 spring calving cows with her father Tony and mother Ita near Innishannon in West Cork.
The family supplies its milk to Bandon Co-op, part of the Carbery Group and last year seen investment continue on the farm, with the installation of an enhanced bulk tank and milk cooling system undertaken in the run-up to Christmas.
But 2021 will also live long in the memory of the Hawkes’ family given the farm’s selection as the recipient of the Bandon Co-op nomination for the Carbery milk quality award.
“It was a tremendous honour for us to be recognised in this way,” Jessie explained.
“We have always put a tremendous focus on milk quality, in terms of the overall development of the farm.”
A commitment to cross-breeding is another priority within the business. The Hawkes herd comprises a mix of Mountbelliarde, Fleckvieh, Holstein, Norwegian Red, MRI and Dairy Shorthorn bloodlines.
“We use a selection of bulls to meet the breeding priorities that we have set for the herd. Our aim is to produce large volumes of high-quality milk from robust cows that can perform well at grass.
“My father and I are both trained AI inseminators. This allows us to use the best possible range of proven sires across a range of breed types.
“We have been using a lot of Fleckvieh bulls on the cows in the recent past. And we are very much looking forward to seeing how these heifers perform.”
Making The Change
In 2020, the Hawkes’ herd averaged 493 kilos of milk solids with an average somatic cell count figure of 76. The bulk of the cows calve between mid-January and the end of February. But there will always be some later cows calving down in April.
“Our aim was to push the production figure up to 500 kilos. However, the pending installation of a new bulk tank may prevent may well prevent us from reaching that figure.”
September of 2020 saw Jessie committing to use the Animal Health Vision (AHV) solutions on the herd.
“We have always been committed to improving the overall health of our herd – we want healthy, productive cows,” she stressed.
“AHV has been helping with that – And we have not been disappointed. The concept of improving longevity of the dairy herd is something we feel very passionate about”
The Hawkes’ herd is milk recorded up to seven times per year, with the last results available for the month of October.
“Data is vital if you are serious about the performance of your herd. This information enables us to treat cows proactively before serious problems arise. With the change in regulations looming at the end of this month it makes to make changes to the way we treat our cows. We have been using the AHV Extra and ASPI through the cows lactations when Udder Health issue arise – The combination of the two has been helping to cleanse the udder tissue whilst supporting the cows immune system.”
Selective dry cow therapy was, again, used on the Hawkes’ cows at the end of their 2021 lactations.
The Future Herd
The future herd starts from the moment a calf is born. Giving it the best start up in life impacts hugely on their later lactations and performance. Over the last 15 months, Jessie has been determined to future-proof their herd – starting with calves.
“All calves are now given AHV Calf Start – a powder which is mixed in with the milk for the first 14 days after birth. Calf Start contains all the necessary ingredients for the new-born calf –antibodies from freeze dried colostrum, yeast cells and electrolytes – to name a few. This will help bridge the immunity gap for the new-born calf.”
“It is an approach that has worked tremendously well,” Jessie confirmed.
For digestive upsets in calves, Jessie applies the AHV Calf Tablet – this acts to promote the good intestinal flora in the calves gut and restimulates the intestinal function. The importance of rehydration and supporting a poorly calf is vital – this can hinder the productivity of the heifer when she eventually reaches lactation.
“Another remark, we normally de-horn the calves at around 14 days of age. This year we applied the AHV QS Spray – a gel-based liquid for Skin & Claw problems – to each calf after the horn buds were removed, as a means of speeding up the healing process. Each calf also received 100ml of AHV ASPI to support in the recovery of the wound.
What 2022 Has in Store
“We are looking forward to getting calving underway in the next few weeks. For 2022, we will still focus on proactively treating our herd and continue to reap the benefits in terms of quality and herd health.”