Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Reseeding pastures will pay for itself within a year'

Tom Starr, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, agricultural advisor, animal feeds manager and beekeeper

Tom Starr
Tom Starr

Ken Whelan

It's a busy time for Arrabawn animal feeds manager and agricultural adviser, Tom Starr, at what he describes as "the very essence of a community based co-op" even though the co-op's reach extends from Tipperary and across the midlands to the west.

Farm discussion group talks with farmers on a wide range of subjects from dairy technology to fertilisers, grass management, animal nutrition and cereals are the order of his days as he travels across north Tipperary, Offaly, south Roscommon, Galway and Clare.

"The main topic at the moment is mastitis in cows and the Development Farms Programme to increase best practice suitable for the condition. Over the past year or so I have done up to 20 discussion groups on the topic. But we are also doing grass measuring and pasture reseeding at meetings with farmers and we are promoting the Teagasc Pasture Profit Index," Tom outlines.

Arrabawn, also in association with Teagasc, is currently designing a Development Farms Programme to improve returns on farms in the Arrabawn catchment area.

Tom is particularly emphatic about the need for farmers to reseed their pastures. He says this is now a virtually self financing investment as well as being an essential good farming practice.

"It costs about €200 to €300 an acre to get it right but the returns in terms of dry matter mean the investment is recovered within a year," he says.

Calculating the tonnage, he shows that the average field in his catchment area is producing between 7 and 8 tonnes of dry matter a hectare a year, while on reseeded pastures the yield is 14 tonnes. That's a huge return for a €300 a hectare investment.

He reckons he has probably met most of the farmers who do business with Arrabawn. "I've certainly met 1,000 in Tipperary, especially in the Toomevara area - the home of Tipperary hurling. Put that in, it will annoy them in South Tipperary," he quipped.

Also Read

Tom is married to Mary, a Tralee woman and they have two grown children whose agricultural genes have yet to reveal themselves - Michael (30) is an electronic and computer engineer and Jane (26) is a chemical engineer.

The Arrabawn "lifer" began his agri-business career in the early 1980s when he completed an Ag degree in UCD.

The Nenagh agri-business was taken over by the local co-op and in the intervening years, Tom witnessed the various acquisitions and mergers which have made Arrabawn the business it is today.

Despite his mischievous remarks about Tipperary hurling, his main pastime is beekeeping. He and a partner produce up to 50 pounds of honey per hive on a six-acre plot in Nenagh which Tom retained from the original family farm.

There he happily keeps the bees and does a bit of pig and turkey rearing to boot.

Beekeeping is a pastime Tom picked up from a wise mathematics and Latin teacher, Fr Tom Maloney, when he was a student at St Flannan's in Ennis. When Father Tom died it was suggested that Tom should buy the priest's beekeeping equipment. He did. And he has never looked back.

Today there are 20 bee hives on the plot and they fill an awful lot of honey jars and produce multiple sections of honeycomb which the partnership sell at weekends at the local country mart in Nenagh.

But that's the hobby and the real work with the Arrabawn farmers beckons over the next few months. He will be spreading the good news of new scour remedies, reseeding mixtures, and mineral supplements to say nothing of the new product the co-op has developed for digestive upsets in calves.

Indo Farming