'There are no farms around Castleknock' - From Dublin suburbs to milking 200 cows in Kerry

Student Donal Kennedy
Student Donal Kennedy

Sarah Stack

Growing up in the Dublin suburb of Castleknock, Donal Kennedy never expected to be managing a dairy herd.

There were no farmers in his family, but as a young boy he stayed with cousins in Co Kerry and regularly visited a neighbouring farm where his interest with the machinery, and later its cows, developed.

Ag Focus Dairy Management - student case study.
Donal Kennedy, 24, from Castleknock, Dublin, who is assistant manager on a dairy farm in Kerry. See copy Sarah Stack
Ag Focus Dairy Management - student case study. Donal Kennedy, 24, from Castleknock, Dublin, who is assistant manager on a dairy farm in Kerry. See copy Sarah Stack

By 14 Donal was spending his summers on the farm, milking and managing the 50-strong herd when the farmer went on holidays.

"I didn't even have a tractor licence at the time," said Donal (24). "I used to get a lift over to the farm and get collected again." At 17, Donal went to Gurteen College in Co Tipperary where he completed his Level 5 Certificate in Agriculture and Level 6 specialising in Dairy, followed by a Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management with Teagasc at the Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork.

"My dad was from Finglas and my mother from Dublin city so neither had a farming background. Initially I was going to be a construction or woodwork teacher and my dad believed that was a better option, but farming was always something I wanted to do.

"The lads in school were always slagging me, having the craic. There are no farms around Castleknock so it was completely alien to them."

For his diploma Donal spent one year on a progressive farm with 400 cows in north Kerry and his second year with 300 cows in Cork, graduating in 2015.

He is now assistant manager with the Harty family in Causeway, Co Kerry, looking after 200 cows and ensuring they have the best quality grass and silage to produce the best quality milk. His ambition is to lease and run his own dairy farm.

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"I love what I do. Farming used to be a lifestyle, now it is business. It's a lot more technical and down to facts and figures and measurements than before. While that makes it a lot more complicated, it makes the work simpler. The days aren't 15 hours long anymore.

"For anyone thinking of going into farming, even the family farm, don't just do the Green Cert and go home. Travel around other farms, either in Ireland or overseas, and see how other farms work. It's great experience to get hands-on training in all the different areas and see which one you want to use on your farm."      

Irish Independent


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