Rathard Holsteins is a 180 cow, grass-based herd situated in Aherla Co. Cork. The herd has expanded from 50 cows pre EU quota removal, with future ambitions to remain at current cow numbers whilst gaining efficiency through genetic gain, with a constant focus on ensuring sustainability. Family farming is part of our core ethos at Rathard. Myself & Paula run the farm on a daily basis with our daughters Chloe, Becky and Georgina being encouraged to share our passion for working with livestock.
Originally not from farming backgrounds, I started farming in 2010 with Paula trying her hand at milking cows for the first time in 2014. Our farming lives undertook a major change in 2017 after winning the Zurich, Irish Independent farmer of the year. Since, we have gained the opportunity to work on numerous TV projects including the Hardest Harvest where Paula lived with a Maasai Tribe in Kenya, raising in excess of €50,000 for charity. I am also a regular columnist for the Farming Independent. Our passion still lies with working with dairy cows on a daily basis and we have been lucky to welcome visitors from all corners of the globe on farm to experience our passion for Irish dairy farming.
We are extremely excited to collaborate with ICBF on the new campaign #FutureofFarming. With the dawn of a new decade it is imperative that farming engages with a wider audience to show the realities of farming. Over the next 12 months #FutureofFarming will take you inside Rathard, sharing how the farm operates, how genetics combined with technical data, defines the herd. We will also be sharing various messages including the story of sustainable food production. Whilst some say farming faces many challenges, by using knowledge in conjunction with research, opportunities can unfold in the future. You can follow #FutureofFarming via ICBF Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.
Currently calving 2020 is just starting on the farm, with a new grazing season dawning. Its always a wonderful sight seeing new life arrive on farm but also seeing the cows content out grazing. The key thing for us is ensuring the herd is managed correctly over the next few months to ensure cows are in tip top condition for breeding season.
With the implementation of changes to both the dairy EBI and calving difficulty evaluations recently, we have had a chance to look at how it has affected our herd and also our breeding programme. We use Genomic sires on our heifers so it will be a huge advantage having calving difficulty figures specific to dairy heifers. Increases in the reliability of bulls will also be advantageous, we have always been big believers in using Genomic bulls and this is a message we are also seeing from progressive herds around the globe, increased reliability confirms these choices.
Looking back at our breeding decisions over the last 4 – 5 years the new evaluations highlight that using a team of Genomic sires ensures maximum genetic gain can be achieved.
Our herd is now home to numerous females well in excess of €300 EBI with research proving time and time again that high EBI animals lead to more profitable dairying. It has been highlighted that high EBI herds have reduced carbon footprint, this provides yet another tool, combined with other farm management decisions, that can ensure Irish dairying remains at the forefront of sustainability, in a world where climate change must be addressed.