Sean O’Dwyer hails from a strong dairy background, with the O’Dwyer family having farmed in the Callan area for as far back as Sean can recollect.
“I don’t know beyond my grandfather, but I’m at least the third generation.” Sean said to That’sFarming.
The 25-year-old and his family now run a 92-strong milking herd, while also operating a calf to beef finishing system. Their herd, both dairy and beef, is made up of Holstein/Friesian crossbreeds, with any calves kept for beef finished at 20-22 months.
“We are 85% dairy and the remaining are beef.” Sean explained.
The family are currently milking on an 8-unit herringbone parlour, though they may look at upgrading the facilities in the future should they decide to push on with expansion plans. The O’Dwyer family all play a part in the running of the home farm, though the majority of all tasks are carried out by Sean’s father, Michael, with Sean and his brother, Simon, helping out when possible.
Always Ag? Education -
For Sean, a career back on the home farm was not always the sole intention, with the young Kilkenny man instead heading to UCC to study a Masters in Economics.
“I went to college with the intention of not farming,” Sean laughed.
It was here in UCC, that Sean realized a career in economics may not be for him and the decision was made to try and pursue a career within the agricultural world. To coincide with this newly developed ambition, Sean took in an educational trip to Kildalton, where he completed his green certificate. He did not return home on a full-time basis, however, deciding instead to work in the business sector off-farm.
“It ended up that college wasn’t really the thing for me, so I finished college and I am working away now as the farm isn’t big enough to support two people.” said Sean.
“So I would give a hand on the farm at home when I can. Dad is only 50, so he won’t be looking at retirement for a good few years anyway...I did the green cert last year, in Kildalton College.” he continued.
Sean says the skills gained through working in the business sector has helped him improve operations at home.
“I’m working in the business field. The transfer of skills is seamless.” Sean noted.
Sean says he is ‘100%’ happy with his decision to return to his agricultural heritage and the family farm.
The O’Dwyers are currently operating a spring calving system, with cows milked twice daily. For calving, the family aim to have all cows calved down within the period between the beginning of February and March, though Sean concedes this is not always possible.
“It would be great if everything was calved down within twelve weeks, but that’s not the case.” he said.
“Between the first of February and the end of March, we would be hoping to have 70-80% calved by then.” he continued.
The family usually dry off their cows for November, though Sean concedes that on the back of this year they will be looking to push milking on as long as possible.
“We’ll go into December now if we can.” the farmer told That’sFarming.
When breeding, the family use A.I. for the first six-eight weeks of the breeding season, with a home-reared Holstein stock bull used to mop up. When choosing A.I. sires, the O’Dwyers tend to stick to Holstein genetics. All of the cattle are grazed in a paddock-to-paddock system, in approximately 10-12 day rotations.
As mentioned the O’Dwyers also run a calf to beef finishing system alongside their dairy enterprise. Generally, they keep approximately 16-18 of the best bull calves born on the farm each year, before fattening them and finishing them at between 20-22 months. The bulls are then brought to their local ABP factory for processing.
Any other bull calves born on the farm are shipped out to Sean’s uncle, who then rears them himself for beef. With regards to heifer replacements on the farm, Sean and his family aim to keep approximately 35/40 each year, again with any excess animals sold off farm.
“We keep the oldest 16-18 calves for beef and we sell the rest of the calves then to our uncle.” Sean explained.
A member of his local Callan Macra Club, Sean harbours big hopes for the future of the family farm. He concedes that one day his father, Michael, will decide to step away from the running of the enterprise, meaning Sean and his brother, Simon, will most likely take the reins.
“We’ll probably be working together.” Sean predicted.
In the long run, the O’Dwyers will be looking to push cow numbers up to the 120 mark. They intend to build a shed next summer, all going well, to begin construction and help move that dream one step closer. This will be done before the parlour is extended and Sean concedes once this is complete, the family will also likely reduce the number of calves they finish themselves.
“They are the three main aims. Expand the sheds, Expand the cows (numbers) and expand the parlour.” Sean told Kevin.
“We’ll probably reduce the beef. The closer we get to 120, we’ll wean off the beef.” he continues.
On a personal level, before Sean invests in any land himself the 25-year-old Callan man hopes to build his own place to call home.
“That’s maybe two or three years down the line, but once I get that nailed down, I would be looking at land and developing the parlour as well. But I need my own house first.” he chuckled.
What about Agriculture draws Sean in -
For a man that never intended on farming full-time, there is a lot about a full-time career within the agricultural sector that appeals to him.
“You’re managing your own work, you’re managing your own lifestyle and your only working for yourself and in control of what happens.” Sean explained.
“You outside too, which is better than being inside working.” he laughed.
Although he notes there are many dangers connected to a career working alongside animals, Sean is content that the good most definitely outweighs the bad.
“It what’s your brought up with.” Sean said before again noting his 100% happiness at his decision to return to agriculture.
As every farm is a business, Sean is well-equipped to tackle any problems he may encounter in his future in dairy and also most likely going to drive the family farm on, to even greater heights.
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