In this week’s dairy segment, That’s Farming speaks to Edward Treanor about travelling and working overseas and the family farm’s dairy expansion journey with an initial land base of 80-acres.
Bitten by the travel bug, Edward Treanor lived and worked overseas before returning to his family-run dairy enterprise in Clones, Co. Monaghan.
His passion for travel stemmed from work placement on large-scale dairy enterprises, as part of his dairy management studies at Ballyhaise Agricultural College.
He travelled all over New Zealand, both the North and South Island, calving cows, sight-seeing and bungy jumping in Queenstown, before venturing back to the Emerald Isle for a brief stint in January 2015.
“That did not last long; I had the travel bug, and in May of 2015, I went to Australia to work on a 500-cow dairy farm just outside Melbourne in Gippsland for a neighbour from home, Brain Corr, which I enjoyed greatly. I joined the local Aussie rules football team in Poowong which was great craic with all the locals,” he told That’s Farming.
“After several months, working in Gippsland, I decided I was going to be milking cows long enough. I moved into Melbourne city and got a Monday to Saturday job working as an engineer, and I enjoyed life to the fullest.” added the AIT mechanical engineering and renewable energy graduate.
“This is where I met my girlfriend, Trisha, who is from Donegal. In late 2018, we moved home to Ireland and are expecting our first child in June of this year.”
Dairy expansion mode
Edward’s return to his home soil has seen the farm, which he runs with his father, Tom, embrace dairy expansion, growing from an initial 80 dairy cows in 2015 to 160 cows in 2021.
They increased numbers to 130 last year and plan to milk 160 pedigree Holstein Friesian cows on their 290-acre (230-acres owned and 60-acres leased) enterprise this year with a stocking rate of 3.5Lu/Ha on their milking platform.
“My grandfather moved to Clones in 1970 from Emyvale. He applied to the land commission for more land, and they offered him this block of 80-acres in Clones. He and his family grabbed this with both hands and moved to Clones. Since then, dad has grown the farm from 80-acres up to 230-acres.
The Monaghan natives have bumped up numbers to “move away from the beef side of things and focus more on the dairy so the farm could generate an income for two families”.
Breeding programme and production
The duo are moving towards high-EBI breeding for a more compact spring and autumn calving system, focusing on a smaller type of cow, approximately 550-600kg.
Although their cows are young, as the Treanors are expanding numbers, the herd averaged 500kgs of milk solids at 3.50% protein, 4.20% butterfat, SCC of 115 and TBC of 5 from a concentrate input of just under 1.3 tonnes per cow in 2020.
Using 100% AI, they breed for eight weeks with pedigree high-EBI 50% genomic and 50% daughter-proven bulls. Then for the last four weeks, they utilise dairy-beef AI sires.
They sell all bull calves and beef-sired progeny to local beef farmers and retain all heifers as replacements as part of a 24-month-old calving system.
“70% of our calving takes place in spring to try and get as much grass into the cow’s diet as possible, with the aim to get cows out in February. We calve the rest of the herd in the autumn.” the full-time farmer added.
“Our ideal cow is one that is giving her body weight in milk solids, that will travel a long distance and go in-calf easily. We milk cows twice-a-day for 365 days of the year. Milking takes 2 hours in the morning and evening. We have a 10-unit parlour and are in the process of upgrading to 18 units.
“When the extra units go in, we will be back to nine rows, so this will take around 90 minutes in the morning and the same in the evening. We have 130 cubicles and are building a 60-cubicle shed at the moment with a new silage pit. Furthermore, we plan to roof the old silage pit so we can use this as a calving and calf shed.”
Grassland management and soil fertility
Along with setting production targets, the Treanors aim to maximise grass growth by adopting management practices that ensure high annual grass DM production.
In 2020, Edward carried out just over 50 walks on the milking platform and grew 13.5T of grass per Ha, which increased from a figure of 13.2T the previous year.
“I spent a lot of time on grassland management last year and completed the Teagasc Grass 10 course. I found it of great benefit. Dad has put a lot of effort into soil fertility in the past.”
“With grass measuring and a bit of reseeding, there are no reasons why we cannot push that up a bit more.” the Breffni Oriel Holstein Friesian Breeders’ Club member added.
The father and son’s plans revolve around making their enterprise as sustainable and environmentally friendly as they can. Such practices include focusing on soil and cow fertility, using LESS, and planting an area of the farm that is not suitable for cattle.
The aim to maintain numbers at 160 and have a desire to increase output per cow to approximately 550-600Kg/Ms/cow while utilising the same inputs.
“The most enjoyable aspects of farming are working outdoors, being your own boss and seeing the effort you put into something and getting it back in return. Most of all, we enjoy calving season, seeing a new life being born and watching and caring for them. Seeing them grow daily is the most satisfying thing ever.”
“The future of Irish dairy farming is looking good with Irish milk being one of the most sustainable and nutritious sources of food there is. I think farmers are up for the challenges ahead as carers of the countryside to drive on the requirements to improve water and air quality.” Edward concluded.
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