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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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550kg, fertile crossbred cows & grass the centre of success on Cavan farm

Dairy Farming in Cavan

Owen Brodie returned to his native Ryefield, Virginia, Co. Cavan on the shores of Lough Ramor in 1989 at the age of 21 to become a full-time farmer.

Before doing so, he finished school in 1985 and then attained Ballyhaise Agricultural College where he acquired his Green Cert.

In 1989, the farm was milking 30 Pedigree Friesian cows supplying a winter milk contract, with a cheese production facility as well as 100 sows.

The Brodies were farming 28ha, 20ha of which could be described as good quality.

In the interim period, additional land has been bought and rented, roadways were upgraded, and the parlour was upgraded from a 6-unit initially to a 12-unit and now a 24-unit.

Today, Owen is farming a total of 77ha, 20ha of which is rented, with a milking platform of 58ha and he milked 205 cows in 2022.

Owen has been contract-rearing out his heifers for 12 years, and he is in a long-term relationship with one farmer rearing the heifers for the entire time.

There is one full-time person employed on the farm in addition to support at calving time.

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Extending grazing season

Land type on the farm is “a mix of dry and heavy land”. In the early 90s, Owen started to measure grass and put a focus on extending the grazing season.

Overall, he grew 13.8 tonnes of grass DM/ha across the whole farm in 2022 and he has started to incorporate clover into his reseeding programme to reduce his reliance on chemical fertiliser.

To coincide with the increased focus on grass, Owen quit winter milk production and began spring calving in 1994.

Cow type

He put a big emphasis on cow type “to align with the introduction of the A+B-C milk payment system which has paid off”.

“His favours a 550kg, fertile crossbred” cow. The EBI of the herd is €210 with €46 from milk and €91 fertility. Owen’s cows produced 518 kg of milk solids in 2022 at 4.7% fat & 3.78% protein from feed input per cow of 1.1t.

Fertility performance in 2022 was “excellent” with a calving interval of 373 days and an 89% 6-week calving rate.

The Brodie farm is an excellent example of a farm achieving high levels of performance under “more challenging” conditions.

With heavy land, the farm is long and narrow, with some of the grazing platforms over 2.3km from the parlour with steep roadways for the cows to travel on.

To access different parts of the grazing platform, cows have to cross two roads and to access one of the fields, they walk along the road.

Land is fragmented, with limited access to additional acreage in the area to support growth. In this context, the development and performance of the Brodie’s family enterprise over time is “even more impressive”.

Moreover, the farm has had to deal with several challenges in developing over the years, like others in the vicinity.

High rainfall, fragmentation, and difficult soils to name but a few. However, he has developed a farm system to suit his own circumstance built on maximising the use of grazed grass in the diet.

IGA dairy event

Brodie will open the gates of his farm to the general public as part of the Irish Grassland Association’s two-day dairy extravaganza in the northeast this July.

Dairy farming enthusiasts will flee to Kells Co. Meath which will play as a base for the event over the two days on July 17th and July 18th, 2023.

Delegates can enjoy three exciting and informative farm visits between Kells and Cavan and a Steak BBQ evening in the Headfort Arms Hotel.

Day two, sponsored by AIB, will begin at 9:20 am and will see the IGA summer tour head to the north-east to the farms of David Brady and Owen Brodie, both in the Cavan area.

More information is available, and you can find tickets via this link

Organisers advise “do not delay in securing your tickets as spaces are limited and these events always sell out early”.

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