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As the winner of the 2017 FBD Young Farmer of
the Year Award, PJ O'Keeffe represents a new
generation with a balanced approach to life and
farming. Tomas Turley, on the other hand, has just
retired from Teagasc after completing a 34-year
career in the advisory services. Both men spoke to
Matt O'Keeffe on KCLR's Farm Show last month
and shared some thoughts on the state of Irish
Shared experiences
Tomas Turley identified the defining dairy policy of his time
as a dairy advisor: "The quota system stymied and restricted
dairy expansion on Irish farms for a generation and more.
Then, when quotas were abolished in 2015, it changed the
entire profile of milk production for so many people and
encouraged renewed enthusiasm in the sector."
One of those enthusiasts is PJ O'Keeffe. His father and
mother, John and Joan, had to farm during much of their
adult lives under the restrictions of milk quotas: "When
I started farming, we were still restricted. Callan Co-op
had limited access to quota for distribution so the herd
and output was stalled. Since 2015, we have taken the
opportunity to grow, from 80 cows to 400 this year, and that
growth has been replicated across the Callan region. Callan
Co-op output has risen from 18 million litres to 26 million in
A grass foundation for dairy growth
A common thread between Tomas and PJ that became
clear from their conversation was that growth in Irish milk
output, thus far, has been based on grass as the most cost-
effective feed input, as PJ outlined: "Irish milk producers are
turning grass into milk and are getting better at it each year.
We are growing a lot of grass and that has benefits from a
cost perspective, as well as being a sustainable production
system." Tomas agreed: "Grass is our absolute starting
point. However, grass is a difficult crop to manage. We
shouldn't underestimate the challenge of growing grass and
getting the best results from it. Every year is different and
requires different management strategies. Because farmers
FBD Young Farmer of the Year
, PJ O'Kee e.
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