“It’s like meditation” The Keane family share their ingredients for success as dairy farmers
The farm has been in the family for generations. And it is clear to see why.
Fertile soil means it is an oasis in the midlands, green and lush, perfect for grass-based production dairy farming.
Father and son team, Padraig and John live a life that relies on the perfectly balanced climate of Ireland. A temperate climate with plentiful rainfall means Ireland is naturally suited for sustainable dairy farming.
“The one thing that we are guaranteed is that the rain will come,” Padraig muses. He goes on to talk about the Keane farm itself. “We're an island of upland in the bog, all around us is black, we're a green oasis.”
Indeed, in Ireland, our dairy cows can graze outdoors for up to 300 days a year. And the Keane farm in Co. Offaly certainly benefits from that.
Padraig and John are new entrants into dairy farming, having converted from a suckler farm in 2013. Not long in the game, it is remarkable that the family have achieved so much, so early on.
The Keane’s were one of the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards Finalists. The awards are rigorous. Dairy co-operatives throughout the country were invited to nominate their top suppliers for the awards. The farms nominated for the annual awards had a detailed assessment by an expert judging panel based on milk quality test results and technical reports spanning a full 12 month period in order to select a short-list of finalists.
So it is a true testament to Padraig and John’s hard work to be nominated as finalists.
Padraig is a strong believer in continuous education and as new entrants into dairy believes that “every day is a school day”.
He stresses, “Quality and sustainability are extremely important to us and are at the forefront to what we do everyday”
Experience and perseverance seem to run in the family.
“My grandfather lived till he was 96 years old. He was milking right up until the day that he died. I suppose it's in us. My heart is in dairy.” says John, Padraig’s son.
But things don’t always go smoothly, and the father and son team do sometimes see things differently.
“I've been working probably every day with Dad. We do have our fallings out, but that's the great thing about the farm, it's big enough that you can go to the far end of it and do something and we'll probably be cooled off by the time we need to talk to each other.”
John laughs it off. Perhaps this positive attitude is another reason for the father-son duo’s success.
Whether the ingredients for success are weather, family history, perseverance or experience, it’s clear that this is more than just a business, it is a passion.
“I like milking sometimes on my own in the morning, it's like meditation” says John.
“It's a wonderful way of life. I love it.” adds Padraig. “What else would you want to do, on a day like this?”
In addition to the Keane farm the other finalists include David and Kathleen Boland from Horseleap, Moate, Co. Westmeath; Patrick and Shona Crotty, Kilbaha South, Co. Clare; Gerard and Kathleen Doyle and family, Tullahought, Piltown, Co. Kilkenny; Declan and Alison Finn, Newtown, Charleville, Co. Cork; Sean and Mary Hegarty, Whites Cross, Co. Cork; Padraig, John and Gertrude Keane, Kilcormac, Co. Offaly; Sean and Marie Lynch, Moville, Co. Donegal; John, Niall and Carol Mason, Ballyseedy, Tralee, Co. Kerry; Eamonn and Patricia McMahon, Stranooden, Co. Monaghan; Norman and Elma Perrott, Bandon, Co. Cork; Robert and Shirley Shannon, Clonakilty, Co. Cork; Philip, Nicky and Dolores Thornton, Cashel, Co. Tipperary
The overall winners were John and Maria Walsh, Cahir, Co. Tipperary.
Go to www.qualitymilkawards.ie to meet the 2017 National Dairy Council and Kerrygold Finalists and to find out more about the awards and read more about each finalist.