“I qualified as an aircraft mechanic from I.T Carlow just to have a career to fall back on,” explained Johnathan Cormican (26) who worked at Shannon Airport before returning to the family farm.
The Portumna, Co. Galway native has always been passionate about agriculture but became more involved in the running of the family farm - Drumscar Dairies - in 2015.
“When I was 3 or 4-years-old, I saved any money I got my hands on for weeks after seeing a JFC bucket on the Late Late Show!”
“I eventually managed to get one in the local creamery! It probably was my first independent decision ever made on the farm and thankfully it worked out because we’ve been using them ever since!” he laughed.
The fourth-generation dairy farmer studied a FETAC Level-5 Certificate in Agriculture at Mountbellew Agricultural College before completing a Level-6 Specific Purpose Certificate in Farm Administration in February of this year.
“I gained so much from the course; I think before completing the course, most of my farming experience would have been learned from watching my father but with that, you learn both good and bad habits directly!”
Johnathan formed a farm partnership with his father earlier this year; they are both actively involved in day-to-day decisions.
The father-and-son-duo run a spring-calving 84-cow herd - primarily British-Friesian-cross-Holsteins - on a 60-hectare farm under a grass-based system.
“We like a big cow that is prolific, high-yielding and has a good temperament with good beef carcass for bull calves.” he outlined.
The 26-year-old completed a DIY AI course with Dovea Genetics in 2016; cows are AI’d for eight weeks followed by a Hereford bull to mop-up.
“We use a mix of Friesian and Holstein straws, with the hope of breeding a big cow with high yield, high solids and good conformation for beef.” he added.
They rear their own replacement heifers and bring bull calves to beef on an out farm.
The Cormicans installed a 12-unit swing-over Dairymaster parlour in the spring of 2018; they also purchased a swift cool 11000L tank; 90 cubicles based across three sheds.
Last year, cows produced 432kgs of milk solids at 4.21% fat and 3.45% protein with a somatic cell count (SCC) of 111,000. In total, the herd produced 436,533-litres of milk - a 20.3% increase on the previous year.
Johnathan and his father have started grass measuring this year with the aim to increase grass growth and utilisation; they reseed 5-hectares on average every year.
Grass measuring is a very necessary process because without having actual figures of what you are growing, you can’t grow more or budget correctly.”
“Last year, we grew fodder rape for the first time due to the mild winter we had; it was a great decision after the drought, easing pressure on fodder supply and slurry storage.”
The young farmer reflected on some of the other challenges that continue to face the sector: “Farming today is super competitive. Credit and land are huge issues and will always be discussed topics.”
“The days of talking to your neighbour over a gate and helping each other with a few jobs are gone which is a real shame.”
“I do believe rural people are suffering from the competitiveness of modern farming.”
The progressive young farmer enjoys the freedom of his farming lifestyle - having the ability “to plan your own day and achieve it.”
“Remember to maintain a lifestyle off the farm. It’s so easy to get caught up in growing a business that you can easily put down 15 or 16 hour days.”
“Those days are counterproductive because eventually, you won’t enjoy farming as a result,” he warned.
In light of this, Johnathan is a keen hurler, rugby player and member of Limerick City Macra; he is serving as the club’s chairperson since last year.
“Macra is a great organisation to help keep the work-life balance in check.”
“I find I’m much more productive and better at utilising my time when I know I have a Macra event planned that evening.”
“Even in terms of upskilling, I find Skillsnet a huge advantage because it encourages me to do courses and train in different areas I previously may not have considered,” he added.
Looking ahead, future goals include focusing on milk quality, bringing milk SCC levels below 100,000 and achieving 500kg ms/per cow.
“In the medium to long-term, the plan is to grow to 120 cows on the milking platform. Investments need to be made in housing, roadways and reseeding to achieve this,” he concluded.
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