On this week’s young series, Kevin speaks to Tipperary native and dairy , Orla Power. Read her story below!
Age - 21
Farm - 120-strong herd, milked with Lely A4 robots. 200-acres.
Performance - 27L per cow per day, 2.3 milkings per day, Butterfat 3.99, Protein 3.39, Lactose 4.75, SCC 190.
A fourth-generation dairy farmer, it was always likely that Orla would progress into the industry herself.
Hailing from near Templederry in Tipperary County, Orla is on the verge of turning 21-years-old and helps run her family farm in the area. It is here that her father, Aidan, mother, Anne, Orla and her four sisters run a 120-strong dairy herd, operating in a winter calving system.
The farm -
As mentioned Orla is a fourth generation dairy farmer, but the third-generation on the current home farm.
“I’m the fourth-generation, third on this farm,”, she explained.
Together, she and her family run a herd of 120 cows, which are a mixture of Holsteins and Friesians, with a few Jerseys thrown in for good measure. The began experimenting with Jersey genetics to see if it could improve the overall herd performance, which it has.
“The herd is mainly Holstein Friesian or British Friesian. We also have a couple of Jersey’s as well and some crossbreds as well...It’s a nice mix”, Orla said.
“We bought five pedigree Jersey calves around two years ago and we began milking them on the robots to see how it went. So far so good, we’re very happy”, she added.
In total, the Powers farm 200-acres altogether, around 15-acres of which is kept as forestry, half of which is rented. The run an all-grass and no-tillage operation, supplying Tipperary Co-op. The Powers actually carry out the majority of their own contracting work, including pit and baled silage, slurry, raking, tedding as well as helping out the neighbours.
“We usually help the neighbours or our uncle does some of it (silage work) for us,”, she noted.
The cows are grazed mainly on a strip grazing system, though the Powers have branched out this year and began using a Zerograzing system,
“We started Zerograzing this summer. We bought a front mower for the tractor and we have a silage wagon already so we gave it a go”, she said.
“It’s going great so far, it’s going well,”, she added.
The family have an extensive list of machinery in their ranks, such as a Fendt 415 vario, Two Lely mowers, a Lely Tedder, a Pottinger rake, Abbey slurry tank, a 25ft bale trailer and more.
Farm System -
The system in operation by the family is a winter calving one, with the majority of calving carried out in winter, if not early spring. The family look to synchronize calving as closely as possible, though Orla admits there are always a few ‘stragglers’ left behind.
With the two Lely robots in operation, cows have access 24/7 meaning they are milked at their own convenience. They currently average around 2.3 milkings per day, depending on the cow. All Friesian bulls born on the farm are sold at the earliest convenience, while some of the Hereford-born bull calves are kept on occasion and sold a later stage.
“It all depends on land and grass and if we have space, but this year we kept on a few (Herefords) alright,”, Orla noted.
With regards breeding on the farm, it is split between A.I. and stock bulls. The majority of all A.I. on the farm is carried out by Orla’s father, Aidan, who is qualified in the field, while the family also have a range of bulls on the farm this year. The Hereford and Angus bull usually run with the cows, with the Friesian bulls running with heifers.
“We have a lot of bulls on the farm this year. We have an Angus bull and a Hereford stock bull. We have a Jersey bull also, which we only got last year to have with the Jersey heifers,”, she said.
“We also have three Friesian bulls here on standby. The Angus bull, for example, gets sore feet, so we sometimes swap in the Friesians to give him a break,”, she continued.
Although in college, Orla still has a big influence on the home farm. She has four sisters, but is the only one who harbours an interest in the sector, meaning she has no choice but to help out, not that she minds one bit.
“I have four sisters, but I am the only one really who spends time on the farm...I would be the main farmer of the family. I like to think I have some input anyway,”, she said.
“My other Anne has a great input on the farm as well. When I am in college, she does a lot around, feeding calves and jobs like that, keeping the place going,”, Orla added.
This means Orla can be seen out in the tractor on the regular, carrying out some of the family’s contracting duties, feeding calves, herding cattle or even dosing.
"My favourite job on the farm is drawing bales with the bale trailer, for ourselves and neighbours. The longer the draw the better", Orla explained.
"I also love pre-mowing grass for cows to graze, topping paddocks, tedding and raking...feeding calves and cattle,", she added.
In terms of grass, the family had previously measured grass regularly, though Orla admits that her father Aidan is just as good as any grass measuring apparatus and estimates the total himself, never leaving the family short.
“We don’t measure anymore, we kind of go with the flow,”, Orla chuckled.
Cows are fed 3.5kgs of nuts per day, with 90 calves on the farm this year, 30 in-calf heifers and ten 18-month bullocks.
It was always on the agenda for Orla to follow up her interest in farming, by continuing her education with a degree in agriculture.
She is currently studying general science in WIT and from here she hopes to continue her connection with agriculture by progressing onto study Agricultural Science, again in WIT.
“I am currently studying general science, but I hope to move onto Agricultural science in September,”, Orla explained.
She is as of yet undecided where this will take her in the future, though she admits that this may result in her eventual return home to work on the home farm.
“I’m keeping my options open, but it is something I would definitely consider (returning home)...We will see when the time comes, I will get my degree first”, she said.
The Power’s are also members of the Friesian Breeders Group, an outlet the family find extremely valuable and helpful.
Future Plans -
With no major plans for a shake-up as of yet, Orla and the Power family hope to keep the farm moving as it has been over the past few years.
Last summer saw the family expanding one of their housing facilities, allowing for extra feeding space and cubicles. Because of that, they have no plans on the horizon to further improve facilities.
“We are quite happy as we are,”, Orla admitted.
With regards cow numbers, the family are happy with their current stocking rate and again have no plans to increase numbers, unless some nearby land comes onto the market anytime soon.
“We might buy more land if some came up...With us Zerograzing now, grass will be more restricted, so if land came up for sale and suited us for Zerograzing then maybe we would take more on,”, she said.
What keeps her farming -
Agriculture may be deeply embedded into Orla’s DNA, but there are also other driving factors behind her love for the industry and what she does.
An avid outdoors person, Orla also has a strong love for animals and greatly appreciates the glorious views surrounding her farm.
“Being outdoors is always something I loved. So, getting to work outdoors, especially in good weather, is hard to beat.”, Orla noted.
“The views here are great too. We are surrounded by hills and valleys, there is a bit of everything. It is a nice place to be,”, she concluded.
For Aidan Power, having one out of five daughters holding an interest in agriculture might seem like a loss, but not when you take into account Orla’s love for what she does. Passionate, driven and determined to achieve her agricultural-based goals, this is one one 21-year-old destined for a bright future within the industry.