Farm Ireland

Friday 19 April 2019

'Beef wasn't making ends meet for us - dairy is the future'

My week: Paul Brenan

Paul Brenan on the family farm in Carlow where the switch from beef and sheep to dairy is underway. Photo: Roger Jones
Paul Brenan on the family farm in Carlow where the switch from beef and sheep to dairy is underway. Photo: Roger Jones

Ken Whelan

Paul Brenan ticked off another box on his 'must do' list when he bought an Angus bull at Cillín Hill Mart in Kilkenny last Wednesday, for the princely sum of €2,300.

"I had my eye on him. He is a quiet animal and I expect him to be good with the herd back on the farm," says the 27-year-old.

"He'll be back home in Carlow in a few hours and that will be another part of the jigsaw in our changeover to a dairy enterprise completed."

Along with his dad Paddy, and uncle Mike, Paul is busy switching the home farm in Ballinkillin in Co Carlow from a beef and sheep enterprise to dairy.

They hope to be up and milking by next spring.

It is a work in progress on the farm between Borris and Bagenalstown, but things are going to plan and Paul expects everything from planning permissions for the slurry tower and milking parlour to the purchase of a robotic milking system to be sorted by the autumn.

Most of the milking herd is already in place. "We bought 79 cows at recent disposal sale in Waterford and Cork," says Paul. They are Holstein-British Friesian crosses with a drop of Jersey blood.

The change of enterprise, which was Paul's idea, is all down to economics for the farm - made up of 114 acres owned plus 165 acres leased.

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"Beef was not making ends meet, and the sheep - over 300 animals - are a bit hit and miss price-wise. Dairy is the future, so we decided to make the change now," Paul explains.

And what of the expense of the transition? "It's going to be expensive but there are TAMS grants for milking equipment and milking robots available and grants under the Young Farmers Scheme," he says.

"It's still going to be expensive but I am young enough to make sure we make a go of it in the long run."

Paul was always going to be the farmer in the Brenan household, and completed his agricultural studies at Waterford IT.

He has been preparing for the enterprise change by working during the week on a dairy farm in nearby Davidstown, Co Wexford.

His younger brother, Sean (21) has opted to take their mother Carmel's career route and is studying to become a teacher at the University of Limerick.

Three generations of the Brenan family have been in beef and sheep, but Paul says the family are now 100pc behind the move to dairying and are looking forward to the challenges which face them.

The beef herd has been partially sold but they are legally obliged to keep up to 25 head of cattle on the farm until towards the end of 2020, as they are in the Beef Genomic scheme.

Off farm, Paul's main interest is skiing - a hobby which an aunt helped nurture from an early age. He has flown down the slopes with the best of them in Austria, Switzerland and Andorra. "It keeps me fit. I am not one for lying on a beach," Paul says. And his main pastime in Ireland is also outdoors - "gardening, when I get the time".

Indo Farming