Scott Mernagh & family, Moorfields, Co. Wexford
Profiling a new member who has Graded Up with IHFA and availed of Conformation scoring service
The Laurstown Holstein Friesian herd of Scott Mernagh and family, Moorfields, Co. Wexford, continues on a trajectory of prosperity, aided by recently availing of IHFA services Whole Herd Grade Up and Classification scoring.
Farming 240 acres in total, the herd calved in 133 cows last year. A number of maiden heifers are offered for sale annually. The farming system is very efficient and productive overall, relying primarily on family labour. Adding to the individual characteristics of the Mernagh family farm is its location. Situated just three kilometres south west of the busy streets of Wexford town, with Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum and Gardens – a popular visitor attraction of the Model county – located a further three and a half kilometres away. The busy N25 Wexford to Rosslare main road divides the farm into two divisions with the 80-acre block on the far side used for silage cutting and the grazing of youngstock.
With a storied tradition as local co-op suppliers over many decades, the Mernagh farm is steeped in milk production. Scott took over the farm from his father 20 years ago. Inheriting a solid foundation of Holstein Friesian breeding, over the years Scott has made his own mark. He has operated a closed-herd policy since day one. He decided to register the herd, harnessing both the herd’s accumulated generations of solid Holstein Friesian breeding records and also the many years of milk recording data. Thus, the Laurstown herd was established, developed from home-bred families. IHFA Conformation Scoring service has been availed of for the past three years now, helping to further bolster these strong families with currently a total of 43 cows scored to VG/EX standard of conformation.
Output of the herd last year as captured in the co-op performance report is commendable;
533kgs milk solids per cow, 28% above co-op average placing the herd in the top 6% of all suppliers (5-star performance).
18.05 litres/cow/day, 29% above co-op average placing the herd in the top 5% of all suppliers (5-star performance).
Six-week calving rate of 88% (5-star performance)
There are 17 cows in the herd of 6th lactation or older. Four cows are in their 8th lactation, the oldest cows in the herd, including; Laurstown LDU Gloria 329 EX90, Laurstown BYJ Louella EX90, Laurstown LDU Karina 332 VG85. Scott comments,
“When I started classifying, I had a very limited understanding of what was involved. From the first visit by the classifier I was learning straight away. It was very pleasing to see that the mature cows who are relatively trouble-free and in the top production brackets were achieving scores in the top classification grades. In just over three years we have now had 15 excellent (EX) cows. The fact that all are from home-bred families shaped by our breeding policy and selection is very pleasing. This is a unique accreditation for the herd, capturing the herd’s DNA fingerprint.”
The milk recording end-of-year herd report for 2019 records the mature cows (4th lactation +) with a yield average per cow of 8,210kgs, 709kgs milk solids, 4.99% fat, 3.65% protein (277-day lactation).
Background & early Influence
“My father took a broad outlook in terms of breeding. His was a balanced approach and he appreciated getting good advice. In particular, Paddy Goggin, herd manager of the Kiltegan herd of the Kiltegan Fathers, St Patrick’s Missionary Society in Wicklow, is highly regarded. A number of well-bred pedigree stock bulls were purchased from the highly regarded Kiltegan herd over many years and had a very positive influence. They sired daughters of a very satisfactory standard overall. Aware of the breeding levels that we had built up in the herd, Paddy encouraged me to go on and register and classify”.
Breeding Policy & Selection
Scott continues, “My breeding policy for the herd has always been a balanced approach with milk solids a primary consideration. Thereafter, while not selecting specifically for conformation levels per se, I would always have emphasised correct functionality and would have culled out any problem cows. Over time I suppose this approach had an overall cumulative impact, in that the standard of feet & legs and udders was sound. For the past 20 years, the herd has been entirely AI bred. When selecting bulls, I apply an inclusive criterion including EBI, kgs of milk solids PTA and positive protein deviation. I use all Holstein Friesian sires and I have a preference of using the high rated bulls who are bred from VG/EX dams and grand dams. I also take into consideration the yields of the dams and grand dams.”
Laurstown bulls purchased for A.I. use
Scott’s breeding policy and approach has resulted in attention from AI studs, with recently increased activity in genomic testing of Laurstown male calves as potential AI sires for the future. As a result, a young bull calf who surpassed the genetic standards and health testing criteria was purchased by AI earlier this year.
Some top performing cows in the Laurstown herd includes the following;
Laurstown LDU Karina VG85
Now in her 8th lactation with 7th lactation yield of 9,784kgs, 878kgs milk solids, 5.16% fat, 3.81% protein
Laurstown LDU Gloria 329 EX90
7th lactation yield 8,825kgs, 776kgs milk solids, 5.08% fat, 3.70% protein
Laurstown KOZ Willow 477 VG88
6th lactation yield 8,271kgs, 680kgs milk solids, 4.52% fat, 3.70% protein
Laurstown BYJ Louella 305 EX90
6th lactation yield 8,953kgs, 844kgs milk solids, 5.65% fat, 3.78% protein
Laurstown GMZ Petal 1803 EX90
5th lactation yield 8,778kgs, 666kgs milk solids, 3.93% fat, 3.65% protein
Laurstown AWB Edith 1978 VG88
5th lactation yield 9,905kgs, 812kgs milk solids, 5.70% fat, 3.68% protein
Laurstown RXR Sally 552 EX91 2E
4th lactation yield 10,680kgs, 879kgs milk solids, 4.64% fat, 3.58% protein
Laurstown ABO Sandra 2046 VG85
4th lactation yield 9,588kgs, 835kgs milk solids, 5.07% fat, 3.64% protein
Laurstown CHQ Frizz 2029 EX90
4th lactation yield 8,971kgs, 856kgs milk solids, 5.58% fat, 3.96% protein
Laurstown LHZ Louella 2016 VG87
4th lactation yield 10,491kgs, 901kgs milk solids, 4.76% fat, 3.84% protein
Laurstown PBM Sally 2228 VG85
3rd lactation yield 10,330kgs, 918kgs milk solids, 4.96% fat, 3.93% protein
Laurstown LHZ Willow 2134 VG85
3rd lactation yield 8,625kgs, 851kgs milk solids, 6.03% fat, 3.83% protein
Laurstown PSZ Karina 2181 VG85
3rd lactation yield 9,625kgs, 839kgs milk solids, 5.00% fat, 3.72% protein
3rd gen VG/EX
Laurstown PKR Louella 2144 VG87
3rd lactation yield 9,880kgs milk, 891kgs milk solids, 5.36% fat, 3.66% protein
Laurstown PSZ Gina 2195 GP82
3rd lactation yield 10,022kgs milk, 853kgs milk solids, 4.74% fat, 3.77% protein
Laurstown PSZ Karina 2275 VG87
2nd lactation 8,300kgs milk, 727kgs milk solids, 5.13% fat, 3.63% protein
Laurstown ZDL Willow 2257 GP84
2nd lactation yield 7,871kgs, 663kgs milk solids, 4.72% fat, 3.71% protein
Laurstown CFF Petal 2243 VG85
2nd lactation yield 8,229kgs, 680kgs milk solids, 4.49% fat, 3.76% protein
Laurstown WWA Lauren 2251 VG85
2nd lactation yield 7,851kgs, 705kgs milk solids, 5.08% fat, 3.90% protein
Laurstown PCZ Allegra 2260 VG85
2nd lactation yield 8,020kgs, 681kgs milk solids, 4.73% fat, 3.75% protein
Laurstown HZB Bambi 2284 VG85
2nd lactation yield 6,832kgs, 643kgs milk solids, 5.35% fat, 4.07% protein
Laurstown 2050 Louella 2387 VG85
1st lactation yield 7,635kgs, 667kgs milk solids, 4.81% fat, 3.93% protein
Laurstown 2050 Lily 2378 GP83
1st lactation yield 8,301kgs, 696kgs milk solids, 4.65% fat, 3.74% protein
Laurstown 2035 Karina 2403 GP83
1st lactation yield 7,548kgs, 656kgs milk solids, 4.72% fat, 3.98% protein
Laurstown 2035 Sally 2377
1st lactation yield 8,195kgs milk, 674kgs milk solids, 4.72% fat, 3.50% protein
Laurstown Twist Lulu
Consistently high milk solids volume and components including 3rd lactation yield 8,288kgs, 775kgs milk solids, 5.94% fat, 3.41% protein. In what is a significant management change, this year the herd has been switched to all spring calving. 2020 will be the first year that no autumn/winter calving will take place on the farm. Scott explains that he gave a lot of thought and consideration before embarking on this change in direction. “For me, in my situation, the sums just add up more favourably to an all spring calving system.”
Eldest son, James, who is one of this year’s Leaving Cert students whose exams have been halted by Covid-19, is interested in farming and in particular is fond of the few National Hunt potential top-grade young horses kept on the farm as a side-line. Of the horses Scott comments “Like a lot of things, you need that bit of luck to be successful – good breeding lines, a little luck along the way, opportune timing and no shortage of optimism”.
(First published in 2020)