BY AOIFE FEENEY
LISAVAIRD Co-Op sustainability award winners at the recent Carbery Milk Quality Awards, Michael and Rose Dullea have given us an overview of their 65ha Dairy-Beef enterprise.
Farming with their son Paul, they run a spring calving herd, milking 95 Holstein Friesians off the home block of 35ha outside of Clonakilty. They rear 50 bullocks on an outside farm near Rosscarbery.
Following recent expansion, the key areas they have focused on are:
• Soil – They soil test every three to four years and implement a nutrient management plan.
• Grass – Days at Grass: 280 at least, with rotations lasting around 25 days. On-Off grazing during bad weather to protect paddocks. Strong paddocks are cut and baled for winter forage.
• Water – They changed from mains to well water and can better manage their usage and costs as a result. All water troughs and pipes were replaced ensuring constant water to cows and no overflow. Rainwater harvesting is carried out on the calf shed. This water is used for cleaning the yard.
• Infrastructure – A new 14-unit herringbone milking parlour was installed in 2012. This halved milking time and the new plate cooler ensures the tank is cool before the end of milking. The water from this is used to wash the parlour. Roadways are well maintained and an additional 1Km was added last year.
Michael says that sustainability is the key to success for him. ‘Extreme stocking rates are not sustainable. I think if you keep it to 1LU/acre you won’t be living on the edge and the farm will make a living for generations to come’.
Farmer welfare is very important to Michael and Paul. Like the rest of us, they enjoy their time off. They rotate so that one of them has every second weekend off. Rose who works full time during the week, lends her hands to milking the cows at weekends. Michael says ‘I’m working for a living, not living for working, balance is important.’
• Aoife Feeney is a Carbery dairy sustainability advisor.