PROFILE: Finalists for Dairy Farmer of the Year 2021
WE HAVE had an overwhelmingly positive response to this year’s West Cork Farming Awards which, once again, will highlight the stars of our local farming industry.
This is the seventh year in a row that we have organized the awards in collaboration with the Celtic Ross Hotel and the level of interest and the level of registration is more impressive than ever, showing the professionalism, passion and dedication of farmers from all over. our region.
There are seven categories that make up this year’s awards and over the following weeks we will be profiling the shortlisted applicants (in three of the categories there is only one winner) by The south star and at www.southernstar.ie and describe what caught our esteemed judge’s attention about them.
The three farmers vying for the Dairy Farmer of the Year award are the first to be presented this week.
The other price categories are:
• Diversification • Dry Stock • Hall of Fame • Young Farmer of the Year • Sustainability • Outstanding contribution to West Cork breeding.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony in November.
DAIRY FARMER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS | Sponsored by AIB
Tom Griffin | Timolague
TIMOLEAGUE farmer Tom Griffin is almost as much a scientist as he is a farmer, admitting he’s prone to doing rare “solo runs” in terms of work practices.
He took over the family farm in 2011 after working as an AI technician for five years. He is clearly passionate about what he does and very grateful to be able to do it in West Cork.
Having traveled extensively to see farming facilities in New Zealand, Switzerland, France, Germany and Northern Ireland, he is convinced that the conditions in the region are perfect for dairy farming.
With a herd of 200 and a 78 hectare block, half owned, half rented, he said: “There is no other place I would like to farm, and I am also very aware that we have an excellent cooperative structure, which gives us an excellent starting point.
Armed with this awareness, her philosophy is to put the best cow possible on this “natural advantage” and to do her best with the soil.
Herd genetics have been covered by 100% AI for the past 20 years, with an EBI average of 198. When it comes to soil, Tom is constantly educating himself and leading the way in his practices.
“In 2016, in the middle of the breeding season, my cows showed that they were deficient in phosphorus. They were completed and were perfect again in three days, but I wanted to know why? ‘
He declined the conventional advice of applying chemical phosphorus and instead unlocked the mineral through biological means and aeration.
“It really showed me the power of biology and how much of farming is a life of learning.
“We will never know everything and it is so important to realize it,” he said.
Tom also grows clover on his land and is in the very early stages of evaluating multispecies lawns.
“We are also reseeding to get more high sugar weed that responds better to lower nitrogen; we test the soil every year; analyze our slurry so that we can accurately balance it according to the needs of the grass and not over-fertilize; and also inoculate the slurry to aerate it. ‘
He recently installed a robotic milking parlor which, when operational in December, will empower each cow, improve animal welfare and also the work / life balance of the father of four. is quick to highlight the support of his family, including his wife Laura. .
He recorded 550 kg of milk solids last year with an average yield per cow of 6500 L. But Tom admits he doesn’t “live or die” based on the numbers and performance of his herd.
“My bank manager might not like to hear that,” he joked. “But the spirit in which we try to cultivate is really positive. If there is a negative point it is considered learning and I think once the attitude is right you can overcome just about any adversity.
What satisfies me is knowing that I’m always doing my best, ”he said.
Aidan O’Donovan | Drimoleague
DRIMOLEAGUE farmer Aidan O’Donovan works in partnership with his father Sean and is the seventh generation to cultivate the land in Counkilla commune.
He is well aware of both the privilege and the responsibility that this entails. A graduate of Darrara Ag College (he completed his studies there in 2004), he apprenticed in concrete block laying and worked in the construction industry until 2010.
Then he worked as a milker and farm worker on the Glenilen farm. In 2012 he got a new milk quota, bought his own herd of 65 and replacement cows and rented a farm from Alan and Valerie Kingston of Glenilen.
He entered into a formal partnership with Sean in 2016; and only two years later, the collaboration saw them merge the two herds in the place of origin. At the time, the family herd was 95 animals and it now milks 180 animals.
Before the merger, they invested in additional cabins and in the storage of slurry. And since then, the father and son duo have made significant investments in infrastructure, including a new 20-unit living room, the construction of 1.5 km of pavements, improvement of existing pavements and fences.
Other recent investments have included the purchase of a trickle bar slurry spreader and yard drawing system.
However, they are now at the stage where their focus has shifted from farm expansion to farm efficiency.
He is the father of three children, two girls and a boy, and being able to spend time with his wife and family is important.
The EBI and the soil quality are also very focused. The farm development plan initially called for reseeding 6/8 ha per year (8%), but by 2020 they have peaked at 12 ha (12%).
The focus is now on incorporating clover into established grasslands as they are already including it in new reseeds.
The overall herd EBI is 142; Young animals are currently at 192 and the six-week on-farm calving rate has increased from the mid-60s to 74% in 2020. Aidan has also been responsible for making all of his own AI since 2010.
Drinagh’s supplier says he works very well with his father: “He’s playing a very important role in the operation here, and it’s a great advantage to be able to bounce off each other and push each other. others.”
They also run grass-on-farm discussion groups, which Aidan says is very motivating and a great way to stay in touch with people, innovations and ideas.
“The farm has a lot of stone ditches that my grandfather built with hedges. My dad expanded the farm when he took over and brought it to a really great place when I got on board.
“My ambition is to hopefully be able to do the same,” he said.
James Hurley | Ballineen
BALLINEEN farmer James Hurley, like all farmers, is well aware of the intense workload that comes with work.
But he’s also keenly aware of how much help there is in terms of agro-technological innovations to lighten the load, especially at busy times of the year and the forward-thinking farmer is happy to embrace them.
This year, the second-generation farmer invested in SenseHub heat and health sensing collars for his herd of 109.
Well-established technology allows farmers to detect fertility and health issues early, saving time and money. And while it’s still early days for James, the results are already impressive.
“The investment definitely pays off. This meant that 89% of the herd had calved in six weeks, starting January 25, and calved on grass, ”he said.
As the father of five children – four boys and a girl – aged 10 to four, the Hurley household is very busy and it is important for James and his wife Orla to have a good work-life balance.
“We also invested in a new milking parlor last year which significantly reduced our milking times which is another positive. It gave me this freedom to bring the kids to activities like training at night, ”he said.
James took over the house in 2002 from his late father John. Since then he has focused on improving herd genetics and employs 100% AI.
Currently, his herd EBI is a very respectable 191, well above the national average.
Yields averaged 6,400 L per cow last year and milk solids were 523 kg.
It is currently at maximum load rate with a platform of 33 hectares in the reception block and 33 on an exterior block.
However, it focuses more on building a lean, high-performing business and less on expanding.
He is also concerned about making sure his farm is environmentally, socially and financially sustainable.
“It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly,” he said, and it gives him confidence in the future of agriculture.
He pays close attention to his farm’s water sources, making sure they are all fenced so that animals cannot access them; it maintains hedges to promote biodiversity and undertakes to take regular soil samples, while also growing clover as part of its reseeding program.
Walking the earth every five days is another practice he follows.
“I am very aware that I am simply the steward of this land for the next generation and I am doing my best to preserve what we have here,” he promised.
Next week: we present the winner in the DIVERSIFICATION category