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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
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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‘My goal is to be milking 1,000 cows by the age of 40’

Luke Kenny, Wilkinstown, Navan, Co. Meath is a progressive dairy farmer with ambitious expansion plans.

The 24-year-old runs Balmain Farm Ltd, a 306-cow dairy herd with 33 heifers and 110 weanling heifers, with his father, Edward.

Being the fifth-generation of the family to farm the land, he admits he “was easily influenced when it came to lifestyle choice”.

“Farming has always played a massive role in my life. Whether it was during weekends or school holidays, you could always find me down at the farm.” Luke Kenny told That’s Farming.

“The minute I could put a pair of wellies on, I remember my father bringing me down the farm while he milked.”

“My job was to wash down the parlour afterwards, and the hose was so strong, it blew me off my feet. Looking back on it, I can now hold the same hose with one hand at ease.”

Livestock shed, farming buildings, dairy farm, dairy farmer

Balmain Farm Ltd

The pair’s herd consists of mainly Jersey-cross-Friesian, with some Norwegians Red. They view their farming system as a low input/ high output enterprise consisting of a strictly spring-calving herd, meaning they cull any cows that calve outside their 12-week calving period.

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“Calving time is the most enjoyable aspect because I love seeing new life coming onto the farm. It makes all the long hours and hard work worthwhile.”

“I am most passionate about grassland management because I like being able to measure out the exact area needed for the cow’s breaks and being able to go back and see that the paddock has been cleaned out properly and no-poaching occurred. And the cows don’t look hungry.”

Luke Kenny, farm yard, dairy farmer, yard, machinery

Education

Luke has expanded his knowledge in all areas of agriculture, having graduated from three separate courses in recent years.

After completing his Leaving Certificate, Luke studied a level 5 in agriculture at Kildalton Agricultural College, before progressing to undertake a level 6 certificate in dairy herd management at Pallaskenry Agricultural College.

“As part of my work experience during my level 6, I chose to go abroad to New Zealand to milk for three months. I ended up staying for five months as I enjoyed it so much and would highly recommend it to anyone hesitating on going.”

“While completing my studies at Pallaskenry, I have fond memories of doing relief milking for Dermot O’Connor before and after college every day.” the dairy farmer added.

“Having completed my level 6 in Pallaskenry, I was awarded the best business plan in the college and went on to represent the college in the all-Ireland Teagasc Student of the Year Awards.”

Luke Kenny, dairy farming, dairy farms in Ireland, gates, shed

Level 7 in dairy farm management

In 2020, he graduated with a Teagasc professional diploma in dairy farm management, a level seven special-purpose programme accredited by UCD.

“I chose to go to Moorepark after graduating from the level 6 in Pallaskenry as I wanted to further my knowledge in the dairy sector. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about all aspects involved in the setting up and running of a dairy farm.”

“The course involves two years of full-time placement (one farm per year) whereby you’re in full-time employment on a farm, on a full-time wage and you attend college three days a month for two years.”

“I made a lot of lifelong friends and colleagues from all corners of the country. Even now after graduating, if I had a question for one of my lecturers, I would still feel able to get in touch with them.” added the Navan Macra na Feirme member.

Dairy cattle, Jersey cattle, Friesian cattle

Future plans

Having graduated from Moorepark in 2020, the young dairy farmer plans to form a farm partnership with his father next year. They are set to enter into a rent-to-buy agreement, meaning Luke will own the cows in five years’ time.

“From there, I intend on increasing cow numbers from 306 to 500 in the next ten years. The agreement I have made with dad is that I will be able to travel from November to January for the next two years. I would like to see India, Thailand, Australia, America, and China.”

“As someone that has looked at pursuing a career in agriculture, I would recommend gaining work experience in all different types of farming systems.”

“You might not be interested in milking cows, but beef, sheep, poultry, pig or tillage farming, for example, might spark an interest.”

“If you are completing your work experience on a certain system and decide it isn’t for you, don’t just give up on a career in agriculture as a whole, give everything a shot.”

“My goal is to be milking 1,000 cows by the age of 40. The hours can be long, and the work can be hard, but to me, the end result can be very rewarding if you work hard and put your mind to it.” Luke Kenny concluded.

To share your story, email – catherina@thatsfarming.com

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