Garrettstown Pedigree Holstein Friesian Herd – David Corrigan & family

Garrettstown, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow

From milking cows by hand through to robotic milking, A2/A2 selection and Red & White Polled genetics today! 

An IHFA Carlow Kilkenny Club herd profile

Historical records verify that milk has been produced on the Corrigan family farm for now over one hundred and fifty years. Six generations of the Corrigan family, going back to the 1870s, span this sesquicentennial (150 years) of dairy farming, with David continuing the tradition, farming as a partnership with the help of his sons Kenneth, Mark and Steven. 

Milk is supplied all year-round. David remembers with nostalgia as a boy the daily routine of hand milking the cows very early each morning, before the fresh milk was brought in churns by horse and car to Rathvilly railway station to be transported by train to the Dublin Wholesale Milk Supply company, located on Parkgate Street. Notwithstanding this historical connection with bygone eras, herd focus today is very much forward-looking in its outlook, encompassing robotic milking, Red & White breeding, with breeding emphasis on polled genetics and A2/A2 beta-casein milk proteins.

Total output recorded last year was 1.3 million kilos of milk and 93,000kgs milk solids. 184 cows were calved-down in total, including some heifers and cows sold as surplus stock. Optimum herd size is 140 cows, compatible with the two milking robots on farm. Calving pattern is 20% winter, 80% spring. The yield of mature cows last year was 7,782kgs milk, 573kgs milk solids, 4.02% fat, 3.37% protein (305d) last year. Currently the herd consists of 44 VG/EX cows on IHFA conformation standard. 

Red & White Genetics and much more besides

“I have always been a fan of Red and White breeding” says David, “for a long number of years we have selected Red & White Holstein Friesian lines and even dabbled in using some Red genetics from other breeds. I have a hunch that Red & Whites have an inherent ability to better cope with heat stress, this unique quality sets them apart. 

“Polledness is very advantageous in terms of animal welfare and a secondary benefit is the fact that it is labour-saving. Red & White Holstein Friesian lines offer a high-quality selection of polled genetics. The fact that there is now a wider choice of good bulls within the Red & White population than ever before is encouraging and is a reassurance factor in our decision to follow this selection policy”. With 30% of the herd being Red and White cows and a further 20% Red Factor (Red recessive) the percentage of Red & Whites is increasing year-on-year.”Showing is an aspect that all the family is keen on. David’s father, Richard, and his grandfather successfully showed Clydesdale horses, Suffolk sheep and Shorthorn cows in the past, travelling the breadth of the country to numerous shows. Richard switched the dairy herd to Friesian breeding in the 1960s and he expanded numbers in the 70s in line with Ireland joining the then E.E.C. (E.U.). David completed his agricultural education at Gurteen College in 1973 and thereafter returned home to join the family farm.

Steven and young son Darragh, aged 8, are now flying the family flag, exhibiting at shows – resurrecting this age-old family passion. The farm business also includes a substantial hire machinery component, keeping all the family very busy with Steven focusing on the dairy herd. They have enjoyed success at Emerald Expo, Tullamore National Livestock Show and other local shows including Tullow, Tinahely and Iverk, to mention a few. “It’s a day out which all the family can enjoy” says Steven. Steven comments “The functionality of cow type is fundamental to our herd. Physically a cow must be put together very soundly in legs & feet, good udders and teat characteristics, body width and overall balance. This in order to last a long lifetime and achieve mature yield over a number of lactations. Functionality is not just limited to physical characteristics. For example it also refers to a cow’s ability to remain healthy and resilient, produce quality offspring and so on. IHFA Classification is useful as an independent service to score the physical attributes of our cows in an unbiased method. The information provided is used as a benchmark for our own standards which can then be applied into the herd breeding and selection policy, mapping out the make-up of the next generation.”

 AI breeding is used across the herd and Steven is responsible for carrying out all this work. He also enjoys the bull selection process. The list of bulls used recently includes Conan, Rex PP Red, Apple Crisp, Diamondback, Aaron-Red, Lawn Boy P Red, Cogent District Red. Some straws of STBVQ Rubens ET (born in 1993) are in the AI flask and these will also be used on selected cows. 

Some of the top Garrettstown cow families includes;

Garrettstown Amber EX90 

  •       In six lactations to date she has recorded a production average of 11,400kgs milk, 784kgs milk solids, 3.49% fat, 3.35% protein per lactation.

Garrettstown SPT Orla EX90 2E

  •       7th Lactation yield 9,909kgs milk, 766kgs milk solids, 4.04% fat, 3.6% protein.
  •       Now in her 8th lactation.

Her Daughter Garrettstown S1290 Orla VG85

  •       4th lactation yield 8,200kgs milk, 713kgs milk solids, 4.99% fat, 3.71% protein.

Garrettstown AVO Apricot EX90 2E

  •       Great longevity, now in her 8th lactation
  •       Five consecutive lactations over 9,000kgs milk production.

Garrettstown FBR Alice EX90 2E

  •       6th lactation recorded yield 7,256kgs milk, 514kgs milk solids, 3.53% fat, 3.55% protein.

Garrettstown LRZ Alice 3 EX90

  •       5th lactation recorded yield 12,290kgs milk, 935kgs milk solids, 4.13% fat, 3.48% protein.
  •       Four lactations in excess of 10,000kgs milk production per lactation.

Garrettstown S1519 Aida VG87

  •       4th lactation recorded yield 9,049kgs milk, 701kgs milk solids, 4.15% fat, 3.60% protein.
  •       Bred from an EX90 dam with over 10,000kgs milk production in her 4th lactation.

Garrettstown KIX Alice VG89

  •       7th lactation recorded yield 8,681kgs milk, 644kgs milk solids, 4.00% fat, 3.42% protein.
  •       Good longevity with her VG88 dam having a lifetime longevity of eleven lactations.

Garrettstown Tina VG85

  •       2nd lactation recorded yield 7,105kgs milk, 584kgs milk solids, 4.59% fat, 3.63% protein.

Garrettstown HRH Aero 2 GP84

  •       2nd lactation recorded yield 6,938kgs milk, 558kgs milk solids, 4.46% fat, 3.58% protein.
  •       Bred from a VG86 dam with eight lactations lifetime longevity. Her grand dam Garrettstown GMV Aero VG86 is an IHFA Gold Award recipient for achieving 3,000kgs protein production. She had great longevity with a lifetime of thirteen completed lactations.

Garrettstown Faromir Rust VG89

  •       4th lactation recorded yield 7,611kgs milk, 667kgs milk solids, 4.85% fat, 3.92% protein.

Garrettstown Aero Rye VG88

  •       5th lactation recorded yield 6,812kgs milk, 544kgs milk solids, 4.26% fat, 3.60% protein.

Garrettstown KYC Ava VG86

  •       6th lactation recorded yield 9,636kgs milk, 698kgs milk solids, 3.73% fat, 3.51% protein.

Garrettstown JUX Bee VG87

  •       4th lactation recorded yield 9,393kgs milk, 701kgs milk solids, 3.90% fat, 3.63% protein.

Garrettstown JUX Bimbo VG89

  •       5th lactation recorded yield 9,075kgs milk, 700kgs milk solids, 4.05% fat, 3.66% protein.

Garrettstown Babs VG88

  •       4th lactation recorded yield 9,431kgs milk, 770kgs milk solids, 4.38% fat, 3.79% protein.

 Having installed two milking robots in recent years the family’s experience with this modern technology is very positive. Before committing to the installation, the family looked at a number of options and various designs before deciding that robots were the way to go. It is a transformation of seismic change when you consider how technology used to milk cows has evolved over the years, when previous generations milked cows by hand with the only technology being a humble bucket and stool! On the Corrigan family farm, a rustic building of granite stone stands in near-perfect condition. Built in 1880, it was then converted into a milking parlour in 1966. David has maintained on file what is be a family heirloom – the bill for completing the building work in 1880, at a cost of £12! How times have changed!

The farm business also includes a substantial machinery component which keeps everyone involved very busy. Sister Julie is a talented artist, she has completed some very high-quality sketches of cows in the herd and she regularly helps out on the farm and at the shows.  

 Last summer the family were delighted to host a field evening for the local Carlow Kilkenny Club. David says “It is an honour and a privilege to have been asked. Over the years the club has always been very strong, the field evenings are always enjoyable, it’s nice to meet up with likeminded breeders locally”. A YMA workshop element was incorporated. With Darragh so keen on showing Steven says it’s always rewarding to give something back to the club and to do the best for all the youngsters coming through.

(First published in 2020)