Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 18 July 2018

The Kilkenny brothers who branched out from beef and tillage to establish a thriving feed and bedding business

 

Brian McGrath with some of the products turned out on the family farm at Foulkstown, Co Kilkenny
Brian McGrath with some of the products turned out on the family farm at Foulkstown, Co Kilkenny
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Two Kilkenny brothers farming on the edge of the Marble City are proof that there is more than one way to make a living from the land.

Brian and Derek McGrath live and farm at Foulkstown just outside Kilkenny City on the old Waterford Road.

Until a few years ago, they ran a beef and tillage operation but since setting up Foulkstown Feeds they make most of their livelihood from processing feed such as hay and silage along with bedding made from traditional straw, rapeseed stems and miscanthus.

In a giant workshop and store they shred, bag, de-dust and pack fodder and bedding for the equine, poultry and livestock sectors.

The fodder and bedding are packaged in everything from half-ton square bales to individual bags similar in size to a traditional small square bale or the standard bale of moss peat.

"We started in 2007 doing big square bales of haylage and while many of the stud farms were interested in this we found a variety of costumers and merchants wanted the stuff in different quantities, shapes and sizes.

Brian and his brother Derek examine bales of miscanthus
Brian and his brother Derek examine bales of miscanthus

Those with a horse or two want the fodder or the bedding in smaller more manageable packages whereas the bigger places took the stuff in artic truckloads," Brian explains.

Displaying the bags of hay and haylage, he says: "We shred it and extract the dust out of it and in these portions it is very handy for the person with one or two animals.

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"The bags are also handy for a show or the racetrack. The fact there is no dust in the hay or the straw is an added advantage," he said.

In recent times the brothers invested in a new rapid shredder and extractor and are very excited about using the straw from oilseed rape as bedding.

"We shred it, mill it down, extract the dust and package it. The equine people are delighted with it. The horses don't eat the material as it is not to their taste and once it's used it can be spread on the fields where it decomposes and disappears very quickly. It is a superior product to straw," he says.

The brothers farm about 500ac between owned land and con-acre. Growing their own wheat and barley, they bale and package the straw for bedding along with buying in additional supplies.

In total they process over 1,000ac of straw and buy the rapeseed straw on the flat baling it themselves.

Their own hay and haylage supplies most of the feed along with about 140ac of beet. The beet is washed and chopped mainly for the local market.

The haylage is made from Italian rye-grass harvested in the last week of May and the first two weeks of June.

"The secret with all of this is that it has to be dry," says Brian. "The big square bales were a great invention in that it is possible to pack them really tightly to keep the air out."

According to Brian the haylage is a really popular product and in great demand while the big straw bales are much sought after by farmers north of the border.

The rapeseed oil straw is sourced from farmers in Kilkenny, Waterford and Tipperary, "It has to be left on the flat for a few days to dry out and then we pick it up and bale it."

Miscanthus

In recent months miscanthus has been added to the bedding menu and when chopped and milled this is also proving very popular with customers.

"The majority of our customers are in the equine business in a big and a small way," he explains.

"Poultry people also like the rapeseed bedding and buy a lot of it. The miscanthus is favoured by UK customers."

It is really an understatement to describe the business as a cottage industry given the range of machines and the massive expanse of storage space needed to keep the various products dry.

In employment terms the business is sustaining three full-time jobs and in the summer provides a number of seasonal positions, not to mention the welcome income it generates for tillage farmers.

Contact Foulkstown Feeds at www.haylage.ie


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