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While the two farms chosen by the Irish
Grassland Association for its annual
Summer Dairy Tour in July were quite
contrasting in a number of ways, most
especially in the fact that one is family
owned while the other is a leased farm,
the real eye-opener was in the fact that
they had so many similarities, most of all
in terms of attention to detail in ensuring
that the basics of dairy farm management
are carried out effi ciently and eff ectively.
Note the key similarities in the herd
breeding programmes which deliver high
in-calf rates and compact calving. In
addition, high grass growth and utilisation
is achieved through high soil fertility,
regular measurement and adequate
stocking rates. Due to the drought, this
year's grass growth rates were, naturally,
impacted... the full extent of which will
not be measurable until year's end.
A family farm
Conor (pictured) and Josie Kelleher
farm 58 ha in four sections of mostly free
draining loamy soils near Aherla, Co.
Cork. All of the land is owned with 41.7
hectares forming the milking platform.
The past four years has been a period of
rapid expansion and specialisation on the
Kelleher farm. To achieve a high level
of farm profi tability, herd size
has been increased following
quota removal, from 89 cows
in 2014 to the current 147
cows. Replacement heifers are
mainly reared on the out farm
with surplus grass harvested
for pit silage.
Overall stocking rate this
year is 2.9 LU/ha with the
milking platform grazing
the herd of crossbred dairy
cows. In 2017 the cows
yielded 528 kg milk solids per
cow (4.50 per cent fat; 3.75 per
cent protein) with 513 kg milk
sold per cow.
Grassland management
Increasing grass yield and quality
has been a major focus on the
Kelleher farm. At this stage 95 per cent
of the farm is at Index 3 for P&K and at
optimum pH (6.0-6.3). Conor has been
measuring grass for 12 years and recording
grass growth rates on the farm for the past
three years during which time grass yields
have increased annually.
E ective breeding regime
In the spring 2018 calving season, 87 per
cent of the 150 cows and heifers calved in
the fi rst six weeks and the calving interval
was 367 days. Mean calving date this year
was 19th February with half of the herd
calved in 21 days. The empty rate at the
end of 2017 was eight percent, resulting in
a calving season length of 10 weeks and 3
days this year. This breeding season, the
3-week submission rate was 90 per cent
for the cows. Due to the extra workload
of the diffi cult spring, the maiden heifers
were bred to two stock bulls on the
outside block. Cows are tail painted from
the start of the breeding season.
The cows on the Kelleher farm come
from a Holstein Friesian background
with Jersey and Norwegian Red AI used
extensively in the early `00s.
Long term lease.
Kevin Ahern is farm manager at Shinagh
dairy farm near Bandon. It was established
in 2011 by the four West Cork Co-ops,
Bandon, Barryroe, Drinagh and Lisavaird
in conjunction with Teagasc and Carbery.
The 78 ha farm is in its eighth year of a 15-
year lease. All of the land is in one block
and has a mixture of free-draining and
heavy clay soils which varies from rolling-
to-steep in nature.
Kevin is the only full-time employee
on the farm. He hires a student for the
spring work. He also employs locals part-
time for relief milking and casual work
throughout the year. One of the most
animated discussions on the farm tour
revolved around the perception that Kevin
works quite long hours even by Irish dairy
farming standards. Currently, Kevin is
milking 244 cows. Fifty fi ve replacement
heifer calves left the farm after weaning in
mid-May for contract rearing with another
57 grazed on the farm. In-calf heifers
return on December 1st prior to calving.
In 2017 the herd averaged 397 kg milk
solids per cow (4.54 per cent fat; 3.79 per
cent protein) with 392 kg milk solids sold
per cow and 1183 kg of milk solids sold per
hectare farmed.
Getting the basics
right in West Cork
Matt O'Kee e
reports back from
the recent IGA
Summer Dairy Tour
and highlights some
of the key learnings.
Conference 2018
`Cultivating the visitor
experience through
agri-tourism, artisan food
and drink while making
a strong contribution to
overall tourism growth.'
In celebration of
In association with
October 2018
Shearwater Hotel,
Ballinasloe, Co. Galway
9.30am - 4.15pm
Several factors could push farming businesses to
diversify into agri-tourism. CAP reform, high land prices,
limited availability of land, low returns on traditional
farming in relation to capital, succession challenges with
farmers living longer and young generations wanting to
make their mark as important in uencers. We should
not underestimate the value to people of an authentic
experience outdoors with fresh air involving local food
and drink and interaction with a real, live farmer.
Agri-tourism offers farmers the possibility of diversifying
and generating additional income through on-farm
touristic activities in order to help supplementing their
low agricultural income.
At the
Agri-Tourism Conference 2018 you'll hear from
a range of exciting dynamic speakers who will present
innovative ideas and relevant information of the unique
challenges of promoting agri-tourism with limited budgets.
In addition, this event will provide incredible networking
opportunities for anyone interested in the Agri-Tourism
For more information and to book your place online
please visit
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