Dairy master - combining old school approach with latest technology

Kieran O'Sullivan combines an old school approach to milking with the latest dairy technology

Kieran O'Neill from west Cork.
Kieran O'Neill from west Cork.
Kieran O'Sullivan NDC Kerrygold Quality Milk winner on his farm at Goleen in west Cork.
Kieran O'Sullivan with his wife Catherine and son Cathal when they were awarded the prestigious NDC Kerrygold Quality Milk Supplier of the year award.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Kieran O'Sullivan is one farmer that needs no reminding of the value of a low SCC. With a herd average of just 40,000 at the moment, and a meticulous cleaning regime, he was always going to be a good candidate for the NDC Kerrygold Quality milk award.

The €5,000 cheque that came with the top spot in last year's competition is in addition to the €20 in bonuses that every cow in the 150-strong herd earns annually from its local Drinagh co-op.

"It's actually easier to keep the cell count under 100,000 than it is getting there in the first place," says the modest Cork man.

Farming at Goleen on exposed rocky land overlooking Dunmanus bay, Mr O'Sullivan will be hosting an open day next week, June 17.

He sticks to the motto that the milking routine is one that can't be rushed.

"You hear all these lads talk about how many cows they can milk in an hour, but I really believe that you've got to keep an eye on the cows, and you can't do that if the milking is rushed. It's not a race.

"Generally we spend about an hour and a quarter in the parlour for each milking. I like to have two people on the job, so I usually have my wife Catherine or my son Cathal helping me.

"We installed an 18 unit Dairymaster swingover parlour in 2010 that has cluster cleanse built in. I think that's a great job because it automatically flushes every cluster with two litres of water with the 0.3pc acid.

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"It does use a fair bit of water every day, but I think it's worth it. It only takes about six seconds per flush.

"We don't fore-strip any cow once they move outdoors, but I will do every cow in the herd if I see any little blip in the cell count coming back from the milk collection."

The attention to hygiene and cow health has also allowed the O'Sullivans to avoid resorting to taking samples of infected quarters for further analysis if certain mastitis tubes are proving ineffective.

"Acting fast as soon as you see any lift -even if it is only a small one- is crucial. So even if our cell count rises from 40,000 to 60,000, I'll check every cow. I'll check the last milk recording, and do a CMT on any suspicious cow.

"That way we get any cases of mastitis before they get serious. That's deadly important too - to treat cows fast.

"We just use a standard tube, with an injectable antibiotic if she's a bad case.

"Having your cell count very low also gives you a bit of comfort if you do suddenly get a problem cow in the mix. You still keep your bonuses," said Mr O'Sullivan.

He added that it takes time to get milk quality up to a level, and perhaps because of this long-term focus has succeeded in achieving very low SCCs without attending a Cellcheck workshop or participating in a discussion group.

"Back in the 1980s I didn't even know what the SCC meant. We thought we were doing grand at 170,000-200,000 until our local Teagasc advisor, Tom Curran pointed it out to us in 2007.

"That's when we refocused on the issue, and it's really paid off for us in recent years," he said.

Indo Farming

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