Shane Fitzgerald manages a family farm in East Cork, Ireland that started in 1974. Shifting from Holstein Friesian to a sustainable block calving system, the farm has grown from 170 to 450 cows post-quota removal. Emphasizing environmental friendliness and data-driven approaches, Shane prioritizes grass for herd health and fertility.
Harnessing Norwegian Red Strength
Around 2004, Shane introduced Norwegian Red genetics into the farm's breeding program, based on a trial at Moorepark. This led to a three-way crossbreeding strategy involving Friesian, Jersey-Kiwi cross, and Norwegian Red, aiming for a robust, uniform cow producing 540-550 kg of milk solids annually. This approach improved fertility and demonstrated excellent mastitis control, low cell counts, and feed efficiency.
The strategic use of Norwegian Red genetics enhanced both fertility and management. Implementing a two-herd parlor milking system reduced walking distances and adopting a once-a-day milking approach during specific periods alleviated animal stress, showcasing the farm's commitment to their welfare.
Norwegian Red in Irish Block Calving
Initially skeptical, Shane found Norwegian Red genetics robust in the Irish block calving system. The three-way cross strategy, coupled with effective grass management, delivered strong, easily calved calves. Shane emphasizes that success results from a combination of genetics, management practices, and commitment to animal welfare, making Norwegian Red an integral part of the farm's efficiency and sustainability.