22-year-old Enda Shalvey – a fourth-year Animal and Crop Production student - hails from Maudadawn, Cootehill, Co. Cavan.
The eldest of three, Enda’s mother – Geraldine – is a primary school teacher, while his father – Patrick – is a full-time dairy farmer. The current holding was purchased by Enda’s grandfather in the 1950’s and inherited by Patrick in the 1980’s.
“Farming would have always been part of my life growing up, mainly as it can be hard to avoid not being involved in it.” Enda Shalvey told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“Some of my earliest memories on the farm include feeding calves and graping in silage to the cattle.”
“The odd weekend going to the mart in Ballybay with the jeep and trailer with Dad, just that alone was exciting for me, seeing all cattle in the one place ready to be sold,” Enda added.
In 2018, the Shalveys – who hosted Big Week on the Farm in 2017 - milked 72 Holstein Friesian cows on a 24-hectare block, which is in close proximity to the parlour. Replacement heifers and calves are managed on an outfarm, while all bull calves are sold from the farm.
“When grass runs tight on the milking block, we can walk the cows down to the outfarm for a few days to relieve the pressure on the grass at home,” Enda explained.
Passing through an 8-unit Delaval Parlour, cows averaged in 4.01% fat and 3.4% protein in 2018, while milk solids for the year came in at 470kg.
Friesian stock bulls dominated the pastures until the Shalveys moved to 100% AI. “Once we started to use AI, we could see the benefits of using the genetically superior animals, and the AI was a lot safer than keeping the bull out with the cows.”
“We scanned the heifers and cows, and of the 90 animals in total, 81 came back in-calf, so we were very pleased. This will, in turn, tighten up our 6-week calving interval, which was one of our main goals this year.”
Good grassland management is at the fore of the Shalvey’s system. With the use of grass measuring, the Cavan family have seen higher levels of grass being grown on the farm, which is vital for their current stocking rate.
When Enda is not farming, playing hurling for his local club in Cootehill and for the Cavan County panel, playing football with Drumgoon or serving as Maudabawn Macra’s PRO, he is studying in the Capital and so too Colm – his brother.
Although the brothers step in at weekends and during college holidays, their mother assists with feeding and training new-born calves during the busy times in Spring. “By having two people working outside during milking time, it reduces the amount of time spent during the various tasks in the morning and evening,” Enda said.
Despite his farming roots, the 22-year-old – who is a final-year Animal and Crop Production (ACP) student at University College Dublin - once considered following in his mother’s footsteps. “I originally had Primary School teaching down on my CAO and Agriculture in UCD second, but I remember walking out of the Irish exam thinking I never wanted to have to look at learning more Irish again.”
“So, I changed Agricultural Science in UCD to first. I started in September 2015, under the general omnibus option offered in the college and selected ACP at the end of first year.”
In 2018, Enda undertook 30 weeks of Professional Work Experience (PWE) which saw him travel to Missouri, to work on the farm of Niall Murphy during the calving and breeding seasons.
He spent 16 weeks on this farm with 1,000 Kiwi-Jersey-cross cows passing through two 40-unit herringbone parlours, grazing on 356-hectares.
“It has been the highlight of my experience in UCD up to this point. Although coming from a dairy background, it was great to see how a low-input, low-output grass-based system could work so well out there.”
“I can see how some of the same systems can be implemented on Irish dairies.”
When he returned from America in late May, Enda gained experienced on Teagasc’s Beef Research Farm in Grange, Co. Meath for the month of June. He then ventured to Lincolnshire to work on a tillage enterprise for the remaining two months of this module.
“The best thing about being involved in the Agricultural sector is the fact that no two days are ever the same. There are different things that have to be done at different times during the year.”
“I know there is a certain amount of uncertainty at the moment in Agriculture with Brexit hanging over us but we're just going to have to get on with it and try to make the most of it because unless there’s a miracle, it’s going to happen,” Enda added.
Enda’s immediate plan - once he finishes college - is to secure a position in the Irish Agricultural sector. “I’d like to stay in Ireland, for a year or two, whilst keeping an eye on things at home,” Enda said.
He would also like to return to New Zealand in the coming years to work there for a year: “I think it is best to see the world now when you can, before commitments at home start to come into effect, and with an Ag degree, there are many places you can go with it, both at home and abroad.” Enda said.
“Being a young person in Agriculture, I think there are countless opportunities out there. Being educated and driven are two qualities that will stand to any young person entering the working world.” Enda concluded.
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