UGS visit Tyrone spring calving dairy herd


Tyrone dairy farmer Philip Clarke and his son David host a farm walk for 90 members and guests of the Ulster Grassland Society (UGS) on Thursday 20th April. The all grassland farm comprises 44 ha and has been in the family for 5 generations.  The main enterprise is an 80 dairy cow herd mainly NZ Fr x Jersey breed.  20 replacement heifers are reared each year and bull calves are sold within 10-14 days.

These crossbred cows are turned out during the day in early February and out full time from March when ground and grass growth permits.  The philosophy on the farm is to have a simple system.

The herd yield is around 5000 litres/cow with around 4200 litres from forage.  The stocking rate is 3.1 CE/ha on the grazing block and 2.3 CE/ha over the whole farm. Concentrates fed is 0.34 tonnes/cow. Milk composition is 4.30% butterfat and 3.51% protein.


Herd Management

  • There is a compact calving pattern with calving starting on  1st Feb and finishing mid-April
  • Breeding starts on 1st May – AI for 6 weeks, then 4 weeks with short gestation bull (Hereford in 2017).
  • Fertility performance – Empty rate 8 %
  • 6 week calving rate -  87% in 2017
  • Focus on EBI and NZ Breeding Worth when selecting bulls; high fertility and components, particularly protein %
  • First lactation cows dried off for minimum of 12 weeks 
  • Remainder of herd dried off according to BCS, all dry by mid-December
  • Once a day milking in late lactation, September to December in 2016
  • Cows not in calf after breeding period are sold
  • Vaccination programme – BVD, IBR, Lepto & Salmonella
  • Worm control mid summer, Fluke control at drying off


  • Aim to grow as much grass as possible (12T DM /ha in 2016 ) and utilise efficiently
  • Soil fertility assessed, improved & maintained
  • Reseeding based on sward performance. Done in May/June in recent years
  • Silage area grazed prior to closing for cutting
  • Measure grass – it is cheap and it is also valuable
  • Only supplement with concentrates when grass supply is reduced or when extra DM is needed to extend grazing rotation

Majority of paddocks have pH of 6.5, P index of 2, K index of 1

Feb – ½ bag/acre Urea, calved cows out 3-4 hrs, maiden heifers out, slurry applied after grazing if possible

Mar – cows out as much as possible, measuring grass, more urea (1 bag/acre).

Apr – first rotation ends, first cut silage area closed up.

May- Aug – prioritise grazing to match supply and demand and maintain high quality swards

Sep-Nov – third/fourth cut taken off silage block, fertilised for late grazing of heifers, cow rotation extended by day



Three cuts of silage and bales made by contractor with forage wagon. Approx 500T clamp silage and 300 bales



  • Approximately 62 acres in grazing platform.
  • Currently 62 acres allocated to the herd to give a stocking rate of 3.1 cows/ha (1.25 cows/acre). 
  • Grazing by day from 4th February and by night when grass supply permits.
  • Paddock grazing system used with areas selected on basis of grass cover and ground conditions.
  • Target grazing cover is 2900 kgDM/ha grazed down to 1550  kgDM/ha. Agrinet grazing program is used.
  • Paddocks which get too strong are baled.
  • Pre-mow paddocks if quality begins to deteriorate.
  • Back fence when ground conditions deteriorate.
  • Good laneway system and drinking points

Management at Grass

All concentrates (14% protein) allocated through milking parlour. Cows get flat rate depending on grass supply.


Philip Clarke welcoming guests to the farm with his son David
Philip Clarke welcoming guests to the farm with his son David

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Philip Clarke welcoming guests to the farm with his son David
Guests listen attentively to Philip's outline of the farm business
David discusses their grassland management and his grass measurements
Campbell Hume discussing soil compaction
Philip explaining the importance of good laneways to improve grassland utilisation
The dairy herd in their new paddock and the one they have just grazed in the foreground



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