BY AOIFE FEENEY
THE 2018 Barryroe Co-op Sustainability award winner at the Carbery Milk Quality Awards, Noel O’Donovan has given us an overview of his 35-hectare farm in Ballymacwilliam, Clonakilty.
Having studied mechanical engineering, Noel then went on to complete the dairy course in Darrara Agricultural College, Clonakilty, before returning home to farm with his parents John Joe and Eileen. He took over the farm where he is milking 60 pedigree Holstein Friesians off a grazing block of 17ha. He grows 3.5 ha of maize silage and the remainder is grazed by young stock and cut for silage.
Noel wanted to continue the sustainable farming approach his father had set out. Over the last number of years, he has proven his excellence in dairy farming and grown the herd in a sustainable manner.
A main focus for Noel has been breeding and EBI. As he is a year-round milk supplier, volume, kgs of milk solids and fertility are what he focuses on.
He is achieving 700kg of milk solids per cow and his herd is around 100 EBI.
Noel says: ‘Breeding is my thing; I have always had an interest in it. A good type and highly-productive cow are what I look for/ Dad was the same. We have always had a pedigree herd.’
As the son of the overall winner of the inaugural Carbery Milk Quality Awards in 2004, Noel has continued the high standards his father established. In 2010, he was runner-up in the year-round milk supply category for the NDC awards.
He was runner-up in 2017 in the Carbery Sustainable Milk Quality Awards for Barryroe Co-Op and this year he came first in Cork in the IHFA National Herds Competition for a herd under 80 and won his category for highest EBI nationally.
His achievements are testament to the work and effort Noel puts in to maintain a high-quality herd. Not forgetting the efforts of his parents, Noel acknowledges that they are a testament to the generation before him.
Noel also focuses on soil fertility, ensuring the ground gets what it needs. He soil tests every four years and has a nutrient management plan drawn up. This allows him to manage grass effectively and grow his maize silage. He installed a rainwater harvesting system in 2016 and this water is used to wash yards.
His focus on breeding and growing his herd bit by bit has meant that Noel is financially sustainable: ‘Financial sustainability is most important to me as it is with all businesses. I’ve improved a bit every year since I took over the farm.
‘I didn’t expand intensively, but I have double the milk now compared to when I started out.’
• Aoife Feeney is a dairy sustainability advisor with the Carbery Group.