It's all about achieving a work-life balance, say award-winning dairy duo
An award-winning farming couple say balancing life and work is central to their success in and out of the milking parlour.
"If farming and the life outside of the farm don't work together, then it doesn't work for us," Michael Crowley told those in attendance at the Teagasc Moorepark open day. Husband and wife Michael and Marguerite Crowley farm together in west Cork, milking 170 cows with their five children.
In 2016, the Crowleys were named West Cork Dairy Farmers of the Year and won the Carbery Milk Quality Award. They were previously named as the Best Percentage Solids category winner in the National Dairy Council/Kerrygold Milk Quality Awards. The Crowleys supply Drinagh Co-op.
"When we went from 60 cows to 170, we didn't want to work a minute more. If there was a football match or something like that, we didn't want to miss it. It was about putting the family first," Michael said, admitting that contractors now do a lot more of the tractor work on the farm.
"We wanted the two of us on the farm to grow up with the children and enjoy life too," Marguerite said.
In terms of efficiency on the farms, Michael said they have made great strides in recent years.
"The first thing you want to do is to be able to grow grass. We're blessed with the climate here that you could grow grass behind your ears if you stopped cutting it," he said.
"Then we set about getting the cow type right. The farm is a mile this way and a mile that way, so the cows have to be fairly athletic. We cross-bred our cows… and we're getting 500kg of milk solids from them.
"The third thing is the compact calving and getting the cows calved inside that six-week period.
"All of those things have put our milk price about 3c to 4c/litre ahead of our co-op average."
Michael added that these efficiencies, as well a harmonious family relationship, are key to a successful farm. "The milking parlour can be a great social place, but it can be a very quiet place too if everyone isn't working together."
For Marguerite, it is all about the work-life balance.
"We're never going to be millionaires, but we go on holiday for a week every January as a family. That's very important."
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