Name: Brian Hall
Age: 33 years-young.
Location: Near Ennis, Co. Clare.
Farm: Dairy farm milking 65 Holstein Friesians.
Parlour: 8-Unit Gascoigne Melotte
Herd Performance: Butterfat - 3.7, Protein 3.26.
Mr Brian Hall is currently a farm manager on a dairy farm in Ennis, Co. Clare. It is here that he, on his own, milks a herd of 65 Holstein Friesian cattle. This is done on approximately 48 hectares of land, 120-acres of which are used for grazing.
Brian comes from a background, rich in agricultural heritage, with his grandfather and great-grandfather having milked cattle before him. Between these times and when Brian started farming, the home farm was converted into a beef system by his uncle, with Brian helping out from a young age. This means Brian himself is a third-generation dairy farmer and fourth generation farmer altogether.
Brian is currently working on a shared farm agreement, where he is in full control of everything happening on site.
“We are milking 65 cows at the minute. This would have been a lot more, but we had problems with some cows, with late calvers and that. So, we decided to get rid of some of them out of the herd,”, Brian explained.
“The aim now for this year is to try and get to the 80 cow mark and then up to the hundred mark,”, he added.
This will be achieved through the home-bred replacements, already out on grass and ready for servicing this coming May.
Although currently a Purebred Holstein/Friesian herd, Brian says they are currently undergoing a change in genetics, through the introduction of Jersey genetics onto the farm.
“This will be the first year we will be crossing with the Jerseys and Kiwi Friesians,”, Brian explained.
“I am going crossing out Jersey and Kiwi crosses with some of the bigger Holsteins…In 3-5 years I would be hoping to get crossing to a complete mixed herd.”, Brian added.
This is the decision made on the farm, for a number of varying reasons. Not only will this help improve butterfat content and protein in milk supplies, but Brian also feels with the recent bad growth in grass over the past few years, that using Jersey breeds would mean less grass is required, thus creating less pressure on the farm to grow it.
“The way weather is going, I don’t think these bigger cows are fit for purpose anymore,”, Brian admitted.
“They Jersey are a handier sized cow, they carry better condition and for a low-cost grass to milk system, they are the best at what they do, converting grass to milk,”, Brian explained to ThatsFarming’s Kevin.
Brian says if he got his way, the wole herd would consist of crossbreds.
“If I had my way, the whole herd would be crossbred…I always loved the black and white cows, though, from experience over the last couple of years on other farms, where I have seen crossbreds, I now feel crossbreds are the only way to go in Ireland.”, he continued.
The main reason behind the change is the recent lower protein levels witnessed on the farm, due to poor grass growth. It was felt that breeding through Jersey genetics, would help prevent protein levels dropping like they did this year.
“Everything dropped (performance-wise) dramatically the last few weeks, but the last fortnight with the cows getting more and better grass, it is starting to pick up again which is great,”, Brian stated.
The farm is currently operating on a once a day milking system, due to the grass shortage of late, though Brian hopes this will be increased back to twice a day in the coming weeks, once grass growth returns to normal levels for the time of year.
“I would be hoping, providing the weather stays as it is, that we will be back to twice a day milking by the third week in April, all going well,”, Brian said.
The farm has almost all cows calved at the minute, with only five remaining, much to Brian’s delight.
“They are due to go now this week…Once you get over (calving) you can look forward to a nice long list of jobs that you have been writing over the winter that need to be done,”, Brian joked.
All bull calves born on the farm are kept and fattened, until weaning when they are sold off.
This is not Brian’s maiden attempt at farm management either, having previously worked overseas and in Tipperary. He began his farming career at the ripe age of 15, working with local contractors as a driver and helping out his uncle also. He also worked on the farm in Tipperary, milking a 400-cow herd, up until the end of 2017.
Brian’s career in agriculture is not just limited to these shores either, as he is only five years home after a stint spent in Australia, working on a dairy farm, which was milking over 500 head of cattle. He spent almost two years on this farm, operating near Melbourne, before returning home to recommence his career in dairy on Irish soil.
As mentioned previously, Brian is in the process of implementing a change of genetics on the farm he runs in the banner county. Not only this, by the plans on increasing milking numbers to 80 by the end of the year and up to 100 within two years.
The ever-ambitious young farmer also hopes to soon take up a long-term lease on the farm he is running.
“I am in talks with the farm owner at the moment, to maybe take this farm from him directly on a 15-year lease in my own right.”, Brian said.
“If I can get that all signed up and done, I will be looking at expanding up to milking about 150-cows. I would be happy at that number as it would be a nice income then,”, he adds.
Brian says he has always been out on the farm and held an interest since a very young age.
“Since I was small, I always farmed with my uncle. Since I was able to walk I always loved and was into farming. We were always involved in beef at home, but before I went to Australia I noticed a real decline in the beef industry, with prices…It wasn’t paying, we were maybe breaking even if not lucky to make a few pounds,”, Brian.
This is what made Brian decide that his future lay in the dairy industry. Not only this but as mentioned above, dairy farming is firmly within Brian’s DNA, with his grandfather having milked cows before him and his grandfather’s parents the same.
“My grandfather milked cattle when I was a kid,”, he explained.
Brian says there is nothing better than just being out in the parlour, doing what he does best.
“There is just something that I enjoy, I enjoy milking in the parlour and the whole milking part of it,”, Brian said.
He also listed the sense of freedom gained from working on a farm as what elevates it above other careers. In fact, Brian does not see it as a job, but more of a way of life and a less stressful one at that.
“To me, farming isn’t a job, it is not work…The way I see it anybody can go at beef…dairying has a lot more you have to be watching, between grass management and cow health. Even the smallest things can make such a dramatic difference to the end product and the price you are going to get,”, he added.
“With the dairy too, you are guaranteed that once a month your milk cheque will come in…In dairy farming, you can actually grow a bit better, I think Ireland is going to be the ‘New’ New Zealand of dairy farming, except we will be more efficient and ten times greener.”, Brian continued.
To put it simply, Brian Hall lives, breaths and eats farming. So much so, were he to develop any more of an interest he may acquire the taste for grass.
“It’s a way of life…Farming to me is the most natural and honest work there is. You are out in nature and I love working with animals too.”, he informed thatsfarming.
Not only is Brian a lover of all animals, he thoroughly enjoys the different challenges each day on the farm brings, as well as all the different people he meets through the job.
“Ok you do have your daily routine, but there is always something different that pops up. There is always a new challenge, or you learn something new to do. You might meet an older farmer and he might give you some wisdom or advice.”, Brian said.
“The people you meet in the farming circles, they are just a different breed,”, Brian concluded.
Brian Hall is a dairy farmer through and through. His family may have veered off the dairy industry themselves at home, though Brian has no intention of letting it out of his life anytime soon.
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