That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with David Kelly, in this week’s Farmer Focus segment. He discusses his beef, sheep and tillage farming roots, embracing agri-tech and Agri Innovation Development Midlands.
“I am based between Kildare town and Athy in south Co. Kildare and was born and raised on our family-run mixed farm at home in Kildare.
I am just a small cog of the beef, sheep and tillage farm where I work alongside my parents, uncles, sister and cousins to keep things on track.
We run a beef drystock enterprise where we buy in mainly continental-bred stores and weanlings and finish heifers, bullocks, and young bulls.
In terms of sheep, we have just under 100 Cheviot-cross ewes, which run with Suffolk rams. We aim for these to generally lamb down in February.
Also, we buy in stores lambs every autumn and finish them on forage tape or redstart over the winter.
Then in terms of the tillage operation, we sow and harvest winter barley and wheat for feed, winter oats for porridge, and spring barley for malting.
The livestock and tillage enterprises complement each other as the forage rape/redstart is sown once the spring barley is harvested. Also, we have an outlet for slurry and dung.
We try to be as self-sufficient in terms of animal feed as possible. There is plenty to keep us busy throughout the year.
I started a degree in agricultural science at UCD in 2014, specialised in Animal and Crop Production, and then graduated in 2018.
After graduating from UCD, I undertook a PhD in animal breeding and genetics with Teagasc Moorepark and Munster Technological University, Cork, which I competed in 2021.
My thesis was primarily focused on the genetics of feed efficiency in growing cattle.
I work as an animal breeding and genetics researcher with Teagasc and farm at home also. A big focus for me is a good work-life balance.
Farmers are being squeezed from both sides with continuously rising input costs and volatile markets.
Farmers also seem to be spending more and more time on the farm as labour availability becomes an increasingly bigger problem.
The paperwork associated with farming is only increasing, too, and this is one place where different agri-tech is useful to reduce the burden and stress associated with inspections and compliance.
One small example for us is electronic tagging which has made the management and drafting of lambs a bit easier and also reduced the likelihood of any errors in reading tags.
There is also great power in using a spreadsheet programme to track animal/crop performance, input/outputs etc., as all the information is readily available at only a click away, and the paper load is drastically reduced.
The influence of farming on the environment has always been important, but the spotlight has really shone on it recently.
Technology on my family farm
We use a few different technologies to farm in a more environmentally responsible way.
For example, we apply all our slurry now using the trailing shoe method; plant some trees, hedgerows, and catch crops every year.
Moreover, we have a reseeding programme in place for the farm, which includes clover and some multispecies mixtures.
Also, we regularly soil sample, and we have now started to use GPS to optimise how much fertiliser, pesticides, and seed we use.
Agri Innovation Development Midlands
We have started to use different pieces of agri-tech on the farm at home. I was honoured to join the Agri Innovation Development Midlands’ panel at the launch of AIDM at Bloom HQ, Mountrath, Co. Laois, to discuss our experiences using agri-tech and how it has influenced how we farm.
The goal of the AIDM is to be a one-stop shop, serving agri-food-related companies in the midlands with the adoption and development of digital innovations.
This will be achieved through a series of workshops and training. The programme will also serve as a conduit for those seeking more information on agri-tech.
In my own experience, most farmers are interested in using new methods and technologies on the farm.
However, some barriers to adoption include education and training on how to use a particular technology and also just knowing where to start in the first place.
By sharing our experiences using different agri-tech, and developing that farmer-to-farmer learning network, hopefully, we can improve the adoption of new agri-tech that is available now and coming downstream in the future.
The AIDM is well placed to provide this much-needed support. The AIDM programme is a great initiative to get in contact with if you are interested in using an agri-tech on your farm or to find the most suitable agri-technologies for your enterprise.
You are probably already using some sort of agri-tech without knowing it.
Anything like Done Deal or getting farming news/information online (visiting That’s Farming), or even dealing with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, can be considered using agri-tech.
Besides the potential cost-saving benefits of different agri-tech, when you start to put a real value on your own time, you can truly appreciate the benefits of different technologies on the farm.
Agri-tech, like herd management apps, for example, when you use effectively, can really help reduce the burden and stress around inspections and compliance, in particular.
This will only get more centre stage and important in the future with increasing regulations. Moreover, the AIDM is placed well to provide the necessary support.
We always strive to make the farm more efficient and try out and test new things. Therefore, the plan is to keep innovating in the best way for our farm.”
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