Consider the land you have and what you can manage

August 9th, 2020 9:45 PM

By Southern Star Team

Outstanding in his field: Carbery sustainability award winner Tim Keohane, who supplies milk to Barryroe Co-Op. (Photo: Don MacMonagle)

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In the third of our four-part series on this year’s Carbery’s Sustainability Award winners, we profile Barryroe Co-Op supplier Timothy Keohane who has a strong focus on biodiversity

TIMOTHY Keohane has been farming full-time since 2006, on the family farm in Carhoogarriff, Clonakilty. The farm has been in the family for four or five generations, and with some focus previously on beef, the farm is now exclusively dairy. Timothy farms 83 acres with a herd of 75 cows, producing 410,000 litres of milk per year.

Much of the way Tim farms is sustainable, but he might not have categorised the work as sustainable activities. ‘In the beginning I suppose I was being sustainable without really realising it. Sustainability covers a lot of things. The farm would always have had a lot of ditches and hedgerows. I know now that they are important for biodiversity but they were also something we always had.’

As well as biodiversity, Timothy also tried to farm sustainably in other ways. This year he used protected urea on the ground after the first cut of silage, and he has cut back on fertiliser usage. ‘Generally 95% of silage cut is off the home block, and the slurry is all spread by mid to late June.’ He has done a lot of infrastructure work on the farm in recent years to make sure his cows are well cared for.

‘I would always get the cows out as early as I can, in February most years, and the upgrades we’ve done to the farm, like new roadways and the parlour has reduced milking time for them. The cubicle shed we built in 2009 is open to the east and north, so there is plenty of air flowing through it, and I’ve never had issues with pneumonia since we built it.’ He gets a lot of ideas and inspiration from his discussion group, run by Teagasc.

‘We’ve just had our first in-person meeting since Covid-19 started. It’s great to chat to people who might have different opinions on things, or people in the same scenario or with the same problems as you’re having. It gets you thinking and allows you to bounce ideas off other people too.’

One of the ideas they would have discussed in the group was biodiversity, and how to achieve it while managing the farm. Farmers are trying different approaches, like only cutting a third of the hedges every year on the farms to leave the rest for wildlife, or cutting sides and leaving tops, and vice versa.

His advice for other farmers starting to think about sustainability is to consider the land you have and what you can manage before expanding. ‘Lots of people have expanded very quickly recently, which is grand if things run smoothly and the weather co-operates, but if anything goes wrong, it can be a nightmare because you are so highly-stocked. Start off small and see what you can manage before going too mad – match your animal numbers to the land you have.’

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