How this farmer brought lessons from New Zealand to his Offaly farm
My week... Padraig Keane
Padraig Keane took over the family farm four years ago and has transformed the home place from a beef operation to dairy enterprise.
The youngest of a family of seven, he was given the farming option by his parents when he graduated from UCD with a degree in Animal and Crop Production and to say he grasped the opportunity with both hands would be an understatement.
The first big decision the 25-year-old faced was whether to continue working the 64-acre home farm and a 45-acre block at Kilcormac, near Birr, as a beef and tillage enterprise or make the switch to dairying.
He chose the dairy option and the results are impressive: from 45 cows in 2014, the herd grew to 65 cows in 2015, 100 in 2016 and 126 cows today.
His Holstein-Friesian herd produces high quality constituent milk for Glanbia and the farm itself has been transformed with a new milking parlour, new gravel pathways and a new water system across the holding. He has also been busy stitching clover into the farm swards to increase the milk yields and to reduce fertiliser costs. His next plan is to introduce Jersey crosses into the herd.
"I got a great start in that I qualified for quota as a young entrant when milk was at a great price a few years ago. And then I was lucky in that I qualified under TAMS I and II for grants for the milking parlour and other farm improvements.
"The milk price is not as good now as when I started but it's improving. We take a fixed price on half our milk to pay down the loans and keep the accounts balanced," he says.