Specialist Nutrition
Success Stories
“Using additives on both our grass and wholecrop silage, we have improved the digestibility of the feed and its nutritional value going into our cows.”
Joe & Kevin Doran

Joe & Kevin Doran

Donadea, Naas, Co. Kildare

The Farm

  • 200 acres

The Results

  • increased milk output by 17%

Reducing the cost of feed per head


Joe and Kevin Doran are a father and son partnership farming 200 acres in Donadea, Naas Co. Kildare. They are milking 130 high yielding purebred Holstein cows, averaging an impressive 9,500kgs per lactation.

Two years ago, Kevin and Joe were concerned that they were not getting the most from their cows. ‘Milk production was not what it should have been and we felt that we were not achieving the full potential from the genetics that we had in the herd’.

To address this and unlock their full farm potential Joe and Kevin Doran worked with their nutritional partners, Specialist Nutrition and over that time have increased milk output by 17%, while reducing the cost of feed per head.

Joe and Kevin Doran 03

Unlocking Animal Potential

Working with Specialist Nutrition the Doran’s identified that there were two main issues with milk yield underperformance; animal intake and achieving a year-round balanced diet. Increasing protein intake and maintaining that level throughout the year was a particular challenge that they needed to overcome to achieve this balanced diet.

The Holstein herd were on a winter diet of grass silage, wholecrop triticale and dairy nuts, and for the remainder of the year their diet was balanced with a coarse mix. According to Kevin “During the winter period we found it challenging toget enough intake into the cows as they were just eating variable quality silage and wholecrop in the diet feeder. We used a 21% nut as our only source of protein. As a result, it was difficult to balance the protein for all the cows.” In order to address this challenge to ensure their animals met their full milking potential, working with Specialist Nutrition the Doran’s made two key changes to their herd’s diet.

Firstly they introduced Brewer’s Grains, a co-product from the brewing industry. As a highly palatable feed, with good crude protein and energy density levels, Brewer’s Grains works perfectly in their winter diet as it increases animal intakes and provides the protein levels required to maximise their pedigree cows performance. For the remainder of the year the Doran’s use Brewer’s Grains in times of poor grass growth to ensure they are achieving a consistently balanced diet. Kevin added: “Brewer’s is a really good source of protein and we’ve seen our cows yield improve, while maintaining our protein and butterfat percentages throughout the year.”

Their new winter diet consists of; high quality grass and wholecrop triticale silage, Brewers Grains and a three-way mix of soya, maize meal and beet pulp in the diet feeder. Inside the parlour they are fed to yield with a 21% nut ranging from 3kg to 5kg.

The second significant change that was made in the Doran’s herd’s diet, was the use of Biotal silage additives; which has resulted in their animals receiving top class grass and wholecrop triticale silage. Silage additives work by speeding up the fermentation process which results in significantly reducing energy and protein losses.

Wholecrop silage in particular is susceptible to energy losses due to secondary fermentation and heating throughout the pit. Typically, farmers loose around 14% of available energy between mowing and feeding out; this could be as low as 4% if managed properly.

Last year the Doran’s used Supersile additive from Biotal on their grass silage and Biotal Wholecrop Gold on their Wholecrop silage. Treating their silages with an additive has preserved their feed better; resulting in higher protein and energy retention, along with increased fibre digestion in both their grass and wholecrop silages.

Speaking about this Kevin said: “Specialist Nutrition examine our silage before we cut to determine the dry matter and sugar levels. From there we decide on the type of additive to use and the rate to apply it at. Last year we used Biotal Supersile as the first cut grass silage had 24% dry matter content. The pit tested very well when opened, and that same quality was consistent throughout the pit, which gives us confidence that our animals are getting a consistent diet.”

Overall, since rebalancing their herds diet over 3 years ago, milk output has increased by 17% and their cows are healthier. In addition, last winter the autumn calved cows yield averaged at 37 litres. With proteins maintaining a steady at 3.4% and butterfat at 3.8% throughout the winter months.

Kevin concludes by saying “for us it’s about getting the most out of our cows and our own forages. By using additives on both our grass and wholecrop silage, we have improved the digestibility of the feed and its nutritional value going into our cows.”

Unlocking Land Potential

With better quality silage being produced on the Doran’s farm, and less wastage from these home-grown forages, they have been able to reduce the amount of land given over to silage. This has resulted in more grass being available for animals to graze.

In addition, over the bad weather period, they maintained Brewer’s Grains in their cow’s diet. This has reduced their dependency on grass and as a result they haven’t been forced to put cows out on wet grass.

Kevin added; “We have an excellent working relationship with Specialist Nutrition. As with all farmers this year we’ve been seriously delayed in getting our cows out on grass. So, we’ve worked closely with the logistics team at Specialist Nutrition to secure fresh loads of Brewer’s Grains as we need them. This has ensured we haven’t been forced to poach our land.”

Unlocking Farmer Potential

Through a combination of quality home grown forages using Biotal additives and Brewer’s Grains, the Doran’s have been able to unlock the full potential of their farm. Not only have they increased milk production, but they have also reduced their feeding costs; resulting in a more profitable farm.

In addition, through the use of co-product they have a guaranteed source of feed regardless of changing circumstances, along with having high quality silages that have resulted in minimal waste. This all gives them a great sense of reassurance, as they have protected their business from fodder risks.

According to Kevin “Not only have we increased our yields in the last two years but we also have an excellent blueprint to move forward with into the future, which means we’ll continue to maximise the potential of our farm.”