Firoda Pure Friesians

“We are absolutely delighted to have won both National Herds Competition awards. There are so many top-class herds throughout the country, we feel very humbled to have been selected. Last year was such a favourable year all round, we had a bumper grass growing year. The Herds Competition success is super promotion for the herd, it truly has put us in the shop window. I have received so many phone calls from people enquiring about buying stock and people wishing us well”.

Firoda VML Twink 2 EX91 6E, fourth generation VG/EX dam. Her bull calf by FR2030 Firoda Centurion 1 will be selling later in the year.

Farm Facts

  • Total area farmed is 278 acres consisting of three separate land blocks.
  • Total head of stock carried for the year is 352 animals
  • The prevailing weather conditions have a huge bearing on the farm performance.
  • Farming on the Castlecomer plateau, the soil type is wet and heavy with poor natural drainage. Regular mole drainage with gravel fill, a pro-active annual reseeding policy and the strategic application of specific fertiliser & trace element compounds as dictated by regular soil testing are routine aspects of overall farm management.

Peadar, Maureen and Eamon Healy, Firoda, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny – Winner of the Pure Friesian category & Honourable Mention Judges Choice Award, IHFA National Herds Competition 2021

A multi-generational passion and dedication to quality Pure Friesian breeding delivers national honours for the Healy family’s Firoda Pure Friesian herd.

In addition to winning first place in the Pure Friesian competition category, the Firoda herd also won 3rd place Judges Choice Award. This embellishment of Judges Choice honours, rated in the top three nationally across all the competition categories, is a strong endorsement not only for the Firoda herd but all Pure Friesian herds.

Peadar’s father Ned who was one of the early adopters of milk recording and AI breeding, including the use of young, unproven Friesian sires. He had little tolerance for low yielders. The success of the herd today is founded on adhering to this principle of better breeding.

Farming heavy, gley soils on separate land blocks on the Castlecomer plateau, complimentary strategic farm management is yielding tremendous results in terms of output. The inherent key strengths and attributes of the Pure Friesian breed compliments the Healy farming system.

Stellar Pure Friesian AI sires are the backbone to the herd. Holwerda Torello (HWT) is one of Peadar’s all-time favourite sires for his legacy impact in transcending Pure Friesian breeding over decades.

Family Labour

The farm is operated almost entirely through family labour by Peadar, Maureen and son Eamon.

Maureen takes charge of all administration, bookkeeping, accounts and calf feeding. Peadar manages the hectic calving period.

Eamon is in the yard at 5.30am every morning during spring to start milking. Eamon does most of the tractor work and feeding during the winter and spring.

They have their own machinery for silage harvesting so that work can proceed immediately as the weather and ground conditions dictate.

Milk Recorded Herd Performance 2021

100 cow spring calving herd averaged 6,688kgs milk, 516kgs milk solids, 4.08% fat, 3.65% protein (286 days). SCC averaged 71.

48 mature cows of fourth lactation and older averaged 7,229kgs milk, 556kgs milk solids, 4.04% fat, 3.64% protein (286 days). SCC averaged 78

Herd Quality

  • 54 cows classified to VG/EX standard of conformation
  • There are 10 cows of 10th lactation or older in the herd. All are scored VG/EX

Influential Cow Families

Successful cow families breeding consistently over generations underpin top quality and accomplished production performance annually. As examples of influential Firoda cow families, the following cows in their 10th lactation or older bear testament to the fertility, longevity, and maturity hallmarks of the Pure Friesian breed.

Firoda VML Twink 2 EX91 6E

  • 71,622kgs milk solids, 5,364kgs milk solids, 3.85% fat, 3.63% protein lifetime yield to date in nine completed lactations.
  • 4th gen VG/EX
  • Lifetime calving interval average of 365 days.

Firoda TAE Sandy EX93 6E

  • 83,259kgs milk, 5,989kgs milk solids, 3.67% fat, 3.53% protein lifetime yield in eleven lactations to date.
  • EX95 Feet & Legs composite score.
  • Lifetime calving interval average of 366 days.

Firoda Snow VG89

  • 78,455kgs milk, 5,858kgs milk solids, 3.91% fat, 3.55% protein lifetime yield in ten lactations to date.
  • 4th gen VG/EX
  • Lifetime calving interval average of 365 days.

Firoda Karina 1 VG89

  • 71,135kgs milk, 5,293kgs milk solids, 3.85% fat, 3.59% protein lifetime yield in ten lactations to date.
  • Lifetime calving interval average of 359 days.

Firoda VML Twink 1464 EX91 3E (pictured above)

  • 67,710kgs milk, 5,081kgs milk solids, 3.90% fat, 3.61% protein lifetime yield in nine lactations to date.
  • Lifetime calving interval average of 365 days.

Firoda GIZ Karina 3 EX90

  • 67,444kgs milk, 5,133kgs milk solids, 3.97% fat, 3.64% protein lifetime yield in ten lactations to date.
  • Lifetime calving interval average of 362 days.

Strong Customer Demand for Breeding Stock

The top breeding performance of cow families allied to the healthy longevity credentials of the herd provides for a low replacement rate annually. The up-stream commercial benefit is having a surplus of breeding stock available for sale every year.

The income from the sale of surplus breeding stock is a significant proportion of annual revenue. Peadar comments

“When offering stock for sale you must put forward quality stock with every chance of performing well. When selling heifers, it is vital to sell heifers with the ability to milk well and to perform.

“Every year we sell breeding bulls from top cow families plus surplus calved heifers. All stock are sold at home with no need for advertising. I am firm in the view that it is so important to look after people, it all comes around.”

Breeding Policy

Pure Friesian sires were used across the entire herd last year bar one cow with a poor temperament who is not desirable to breed replacements from.

Peadar says “Always the rationale in making breeding decisions is to try to create a specific complimentary mating where the next generation female will be an improvement on its dam. Traits selected for include milk sub-index, fat and protein kgs, components, EBI, conformation, and calving ease.”

Influential Sires

Memorable Pure Friesian AI sires from an earlier era include:

HHR Huntholme Rupert, WFN Warmington Formation, ROW Roydonwich Wayland, TER, Troyscastle Actor, WBB Whitsbury Bandit, WHG Whitsbury Gymnast 7, GCR Gowertonian Crusader, WRT Warmington Royalist, HWT Holwerda Torello.

Influential sires in terms of positive influence on the herd from the current era include:

KKG Manorpark Google, FCM Catlane Masterchef, FR2030 Firoda Centurion 1, JRB Dovea Jubilaris, FOE Firoda Meinse 2, LFK Lakemead Randolf, FR4184 Firoda Randy 9, FAE Firoda Grietman.

Heifer Rearing Protocol

All heifers are calved in at 2 years of age.

The rearing of heifer calves is enabled in terms of labour by a calf feeder with the capacity to feed up to 80 calves. Milkvit Energizer from Trouw Nutrition is the milk replacer of choice. Whole milk is fed to all other calves.

Peadar states “There is no substitute to feeding whole milk for growing calves on. Milk is so beneficial for bone structure and development. It equips heifer calves with the best possible start in life”.

Heifer calves receive whole milk or milk replacer for three months from birth at a feeding rate of one gallon per day.

1kg of meal is fed per day over the first summer

Heifer calves are grazed on rotation, provided with the best of grass.

Investing in Facilities & Adoption of Technology

Due to the heavy land, there is a high probability of the cows having extended periods indoors, so the importance of good housing facilities is prescient. Peadar states “We have the best of cubicles for the cows”.

Well-considered infrastructure extends to the calving facilities where there are now fifteen calving pens in total to cater for the very busy calving season. “This is a huge labour saver” comments Peadar.

“Having our own silage machinery allows us to work immediately when the ground conditions and the weather are both optimal. This also adds value in terms of silage quality in that we can quickly harvest as close as possible to the optimum stage of grass growth”.

Another labour-saving application on farm is a home-made milk feeding trolley designed and manufactured by Eamon.

Comprising a purposely adapted 45-gallon barrel, the trolley easily attaches to the Bobman machine which is used for sweeping and bedding cubicles. The easily manoeuvred trolley can feed ninety calves in just ten minutes beams Peadar, “It has been a massive help in freeing up labour during the hectic spring time”.