Anna Truesdale runs a dairy and sheep farm with her father Mark and brother William in Newcastle, County Down, home to Castletru Holsteins.
nna is entering her final year of college and hopes to become an independent consultant in the future, while continuing to work on the family farm.
The Newcastle farm is home to a Holstein herd of 90 cows and a herd of 150 ewes made up of a mix of commercial mules, registered Dorsets and registered Texels on a 150 acre grazing platform in Northern Ireland.
With the exception of June and July, the Holstein dairy herd calves all year round.
Traditionally raising a Holstein cow, production-based breeding, the Truesdales moved to pedigree status in 1989.
“We chose Holstein based on their production and adopted a pedigree to increase the value of the stock and the ability to sell surplus breeders to increase income.”
They are now starting to cross paths with some of the biggest Holstein cows in Frisian, according to Anna.
“It’s more of an experiment to see if they are more suited,” said the Newcastle farmer. “We used some of the highest and crossbreed fresian PLI bulls on some of the more extreme Holstein cows to see if we can find better ‘middle ground’.”
“We are now breeding on the basis of solids and health,” said Anna whose father does all the AI on the farm and they use a Hereford bull to clean.
“We don’t keep calves for veal and Hereford bulls sell better than Holsteins,” she said. Currently, cows calve year round, with the bulk of heifers calving in the fall. “We are trying to move the cows to a more autumnal system, for a puff of winter milk. This way we can take advantage of Lakeland’s winter milk bonuses ”
Cows were housed year round for the first time this year due to management issues, Anna explained. “This year it worked really well, we knew exactly what they were getting in terms of consumption and we weren’t as badly affected by the drought this year as the other farmers around us,” he said. she declared.
The cows are now feeding on last year’s third cut bales fed by the feed distributor. “They receive an average of 2.9 tonnes of meals per year, via the lounge and the RTM,” she said.
“Almost 90% of the milking platform is on leased land and we have moved inside to maximize our production on the limited land we have,” the Newcastle farmer said. “It’s mostly conacre and once the single farm payment was changed in Northern Ireland there were more farmers active locally, so we lost a lot of land,” she said. Explain.
“Holsteins aren’t good for grazing grass anyway, so we’re making the most of the limited land we have,” she said. “This year, it went pretty well for us
The cows go through a foot bath twice a day, “it was important for us to try to control digital dermatitis this year, especially now that the cows are home for the whole season.”
Success is no stranger to the Truesdales with Mark, Anna’s father, taking home the award for best Dorset Middle Herd in Northern Ireland in 2017. The Truesdales are busy all year round with their sheep, Dorsets, the commercials and Texels, all operate separately throughout the year. The Dorsets lamb from September, the advertising lamb at Christmas and January and the Texels are kept until February.
The selection of the best young breeders will remain on the farm and will either be bred or sold privately during breeding sales. Commercial lambs are grass-fed and either sold fat or in stores depending on grass availability.
Anna’s passion for agriculture is reflected in her work and studies. The agriculture enthusiast has just completed her year of internship in the Agriculture and Technology course at Queens University and Greenmount College in County Antrim.
For Anna’s work placement, she spent the last year with AgriSearch, the Northern Ireland levy body and interviewed over 200 farmers about grass production and what keeps them from using more of grass on their farms. Anna quickly realized that farmers need independent advisers to guide them and not just to sell them their product.
“In the long term, I would like to work independently and have my own consultancy company, while still allowing myself the freedom to continue working on the family farm,” she said.
Anna also said that she hoped to complete her education and work from home as much as possible – “I don’t think I can ever give up on this!”
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