Driving around the Irish coast, I often glance out at the lush fields, ragged rocks, and blue seas crashing up against the side of the cliffs. On those fields, animals graze nonchalantly, ignoring the dangers of the cliffside. I tend to wonder who is the lucky farmer that gets to work outside in the amazing scenery.One such farmer is Seamus Considine. He runs a dairy farm in partnership with his father Patrick and does most of his farming along the cliffs on the South side of the Loop Head Peninsula in Co. Clare. “I wanted to farm but my father wasn’t ready to retire so we met in the middle, smiled Seamus.
History The Considines have been settled in that part of Clare since approximately the 1880s. The farm was subsequently split into two separate entities about twenty years later, leaving Seamus’ ancestors with sixty-five acres, while they lease three-acres.
Seamus is now the fourth-generation to work on the farm milking fifty-six cows and breeding their own replacements. The herd have a good yield, with a 4,790-litre average last year, at 4.3% fat and 3.49% protein.Growing up with his parents two older brothers as part of a farming family, the twenty-four-year-old had every intention of working on the farm as well. In 2012, he spent two years studying at Pallaskenry Agricultural College. “I studied a Level-5 in Agriculture in the first year, then I studied a Level-6 in Agricultural Mechanics in the second year”, recalled Seamus.
Looking back on his first year in the partnership, Seamus reflected on how he and his father butted heads on occasion, but with four years’ experience, things have improved quite a lot - “we have found our groove,” said Seamus.
“My father lets me get on with running the farm but he is always there watching, making sure I don't make a mess.” Seamus is glad of the information provided to him by his father, telling me that ‘it’s great to know about the forty-year-old drainage pipes', for instance."
Dairy has been in the Considines’ farming history for years. “The farm started with dual-purpose traditional Shorthorns. When my father took over the farm, he pushed for British Friesians and decided to stop rearing all calves.”On the Considine farm, cows must be housed for six months of the year due to adverse weather conditions. British Fresians are the breed of choice for Seamus as “we need a cow to last and go in-calf early,” he said.
Seamus introduced some Fleckvieh into his herd in order to increase the value of his cull cows and calves.
In response to a question of cross-breeding, Seamus responded, “I believe there is a cross with British Friesians that will work very well in our herd. Also, the breeds I chose have excellent feet and udders and that's a big plus.”The ideal cow for Seamus’ herd would all have a uniform size as it would be easier to manage the building of sheds or parlours. “A small cow with too much space or big cow with not enough would be a waste,” said Seamus. There are other breeding traits that are important to Seamus too, he looks for long-life cows that will last for about fourteen years. He tries to go for animals that get fewer foot problems, SCC or mastitis issues.
A cow that could go into calf every year without fail and give good continuous yields in volume and high solids would be the perfect set-up for Seamus, and probably most farmers.
“I'm chasing protein as I feel you can feed them to get butterfat, but protein is bred into them,” he explained.
Calving started on February 1st and will be finishing up any day now. Then, late calvers will be sold or injected, in order to bring in heat earlier.
Artificial insemination will start at the beginning of May and will continue for eight or perhaps nine weeks. The DIY - AI technician will focus on high milk solids using British Friesian, Fleckvieh, Norwegian Red and Dairy Shorthorn sires. “Last year, we didn't use any bull to mop up and it seems to have worked out fine,” recalled Seamus.The Considines sell their stock both at the local mart and sometimes at home before the stock reaches the mart at all.
Going forward, the system will mostly remain the same with Seamus’ attention focussing more on grass utilisation and improving the cow’s genetics and breed to suit his farm saying, “I'm not in a competition with anyone, I just want my cows to give me their best.”
Speaking about the future, Seamus plans to milk between sixty and seventy cows, reduce replacement rates, improve longevity and breed a cow that needs fewer supplement concentrates.
His confidence about the future in dairy-farming is optimistic although he also remains realistic, “They can't do without us, but they can do with fewer of us. It’s a lot easier to manage ten big farmers then fifty smaller farmers.” he added.
If you are a young farmer and you want to share your story, email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with a short bio.