Doing the small things right and doing them everyday has been the key to success on the dairy farm of Patrick and Carmel Banville.
The Banville family are dairy farmers from Co. Wexford, who operate a 140-cow spring-calving dairy herd, as well as a tillage enterprise.
They farm over 90ha – 44ha of which are on the milking platform – and the family have been farming the land since 1919.
Patrick and Carmel’s son John is currently studying Agricultural Science at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and hopes to return home to farm in the future.
In April 2021, the Banville’s farm was nominated for the National Dairy Council and Kerrygold National Quality Milk Awards, and the Banville’s Barry’s Cross Herd took home first prize in the milk quality category.
The herd’s milk had the lowest total bacterial count (TBC) and cell count of all the finalists, however the judging factored in more than just milk quality.
High-quality dairy herd
Factors such as the farm’s sustainability, facilities and environmental measures all formed part of the judging process.
Over the last four years, the farm has cut its carbon footprint by 20%.
Patrick explained: “We focus on increasing the economic breeding index [EBI] of the herd and every €10 increase on EBI cuts carbon footprint by 3%.”
The farm spreads 100% of its slurry using a Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) system and also places a focus on using protected urea.
The Banvilles first heard about Herdwatch from a friend and signed up for it at the National Ploughing Championships.
Carmel noted: “The sign up process was really easy and all the data just transferred over.”
Herdwatch for day-to-day management
Commenting on the day-to-day use of the app on the farm, Carmel explained: “When we purchase an animal remedy, we just scan a bar code and all the information populates into the Herdwatch app – it’s super quick.
“We record as we go and because we pre-populated the withdrawal dates for instance, all of that automatically updates when you use the remedy, so there’s no getting out a calendar and working out the days.”
Previously, Patrick did most of the medicine recording and it was all done with pen and paper, which Carmel noted was time consuming. Now she said, “it’s all done while on the go”.
The Banville’s son John added: “When we record a cow that we serve, it will tell you when the cow is due to be dried off, and due to calve.
“It also has ‘the Watchboard‘ feature that tells you when cows are due to repeat, so you know which ones to keep an eye out for.
“Registering calves on Herdwatch is really simple, you just get the tag, scan the bar code, and it links all the information with Herdwatch. Then a few clicks and you have the calf registered.”
Continuing, Carmel added: “For Bord Bia inspections, Herdwatch has taken away basically all the work because we record the medicines as we go along through the year, so there’s really nothing to be done before the audit.
“For farm-to-farm movements we use Herdwatch all the time when selling calves or cull cows. We can simply enter the buyers herd number, select the animals that have been sold and apply for the movement cert – it’s that easy. All the work is done on the spot.
“Prior to Herdwatch, it was much more cumbersome applying for a movement cert, whereas now it’s instant and all done and dusted in a few seconds.
“Herdwatch is super easy for recording missing tags, we just click on the animal and it’s all done.”
John added: “The performance section on the app is brilliant, you just type in a cow tag number and it will give you all the information about her.”
Carmel outlined: “Having all the information in relation to an animal is super, for instance we started selective dry-cow therapy and having the milk-recording results allows us to make decisions on whether a cow will be dried off with sealer only, or a sealer and dry cow tube, so from that point of view having all that data in one app is superb.”
Concluding, John said: “The Herdwatch app is really easy to use. You have all the information you want, I’d recommend it to anyone, it changes the way you go about farming completely.”
You can join the Banvilles and over 15,000 other happy farmers saving time on farm paperwork and managing their farms more efficiently, download the Herdwatch app today.