A lot can happen in 10 years. I only started farming in 2010 & at the time we had 50 cows. We retained all beef calves on a 30-month beef system. I remember whilst attending Darrara agricultural college studying my green cert I had to do a 6-year farm plan. One of my main goals in the 6-year farm plan was to milk 90 cows at the end of it. I was short listed for an AIB farm plan award so there must have been some sense in the plan & I was lucky enough to win the student of the year.
Paula joined the farm in late 2014, we threw the 6 year plan straight out the window, we went from 50 cows in 2014 to 100 cows in 2015 and kept the handbrake of till we had 180 cows going through the parlour. New facilities were added in the spring on 2017 including a new parlour, we won the Zurich Independent Farmer Of The Year in May 2017, had 600 people on the farm at our charity open day that August before finishing the year having the Ear To The Ground crew on farm & then heading of to Kenya. Since then the off-farm roller coaster has kept rolling with so many amazing opportunities coming our way.
Over the 10 years genetics was always something I was keen on. I remember in 2014 my goal was to breed a €200 EBI cow, now the highest EBI we have is €399. We have not chased EBI for the sake of it, we have looked hard at the traits our herd has required & been very selective in the bulls we have used. Ultimately, we look for a well balanced EBI cow which is something we will continue to focus on.
Expansion combined with a hectic of farm work schedule does get tiring. We took the decision at 180 cows to not expand any further. Ultimately expansion makes no sense if it is not profitable and I firmly believe by chasing genetic gain we can improve the herd year on year. There is also the added benefit of increasing revenue from stock sales. Over the last few years, we have been selling surplus heifer calves, in fact we do not have enough surplus heifers to sell now as enquiries increase. We have also sold 5 young bulls this year which will be used as stock bulls in their new homes.
By improving genetics, we will improve profitability every year. Our calving pattern is 86% 6 week which is close enough to where we want it although I do believe in time, we will shorten our calving season down to 9 or 10 weeks.
The next ten years will see us reduce our carbon emissions in every way possible on farm. I do believe we will improve how we farm with nature increasing biodiversity. Diversification is also something we will continue with; we have always enjoyed having farm tours visit and the scope for projects like this are endless.
With 3 daughters all keen on farming no doubt at least one of them will want to farm alongside us but education is key combined with seeing what the world has to offer so I’d rather they don’t come home too early but I’d be happy for them to return full of fresh ideas & take on the role of leading the farm in a progressive way.
As much as we enjoy farming & focus on where we are heading, I certainly want to enjoy life off farm. Writing is something I love so I really want to further that alongside the increasing number of agricultural conferences and events we are invited to. Life is for living and we thoroughly enjoy meeting new people at every event we attend.
I have no doubt the next decade will throw up many challenges, we’ll laugh, we’ll cry but that’s the great thing about farming, the challenges bring opportunities.