Have you seen the video of Jockey, Mikey Sweeney’s, recovery from a tumble in a recent race in Cork? It has been dubbed one of the greatest horse racing moments in recent years. Watch the video and read more below.
Age - 30
Farm - Dairy and Beef enterprise, with a small parcel of Tillage. Milking cows on 5-unit Dairymaster double up parlour.
Acres - 140-acre holding.
Performance - Milking 25 litres, 3.86% Butterfat, 3.46% protein, SCC - 170
Darragh Scott is a 30-year-old young farmer operating in the parish of Gortnahoe in Co. Tipperary on the Tipperary/Kilkenny border. Here he and his father, Michael, run a dairy and beef enterprise, while they also dabble in a bit of tillage.
“We are dairy, beef and we do a bit of tillage, but we are getting out of that (tillage) this year”, he said.
The family operate a mainly British Friesian milking herd and have done so in the same area for over five generations. They have recently begun introducing Holstein genetics into the herd to help improve the performance, but Darragh says these will be crossed back with the Friesian breed.
“They are making exceptional cows, but they will probably be crossed back with Friesian’s again”, Darragh explained.
“Crossing was done really to bring up the yields. Our biggest problem with the Friesians, is that they get too fat. With all the meal feeding this year, they are piling on condition...They sometimes even find it hard to get into the parlour”, he added.
Always Ag/Education -
It wasn’t actually always on the agenda for Darragh to return home on a full-time basis, though life sometimes has other plans.
In fact, Darragh first studied in Tipperary IT for a period of three years before then completing a green certificate, through Teagasc, in 2012. He officially made his return home in 2013, entering into a partnership with his father.
“I completed my green cert in 2012 and I started then farming in September 2012. It was in 2013 that I started farming full-time”, Darragh explained.
Troubling times -
The Scott’s have recently gone through one of the toughest situations a farmer can, having lost 21 cows to TB this year to date.
“Our biggest problem at the moment is that we are locked up with TB. We lost 21 cows over the winter”, said Darragh.
“We had a bad herd test last October, with ten going down. Then we had our 60-day test in January and another five went down...We then agreed to do a blood test and we lost another five cows”, he continued.
This means the family farm is currently on lockdown mode and has led to reduced milking numbers this year. The father and son had to replace some of their now culled herd, with some first-time calving heifers.
“Last year we were milking 78 cows and we were hoping to milk 85/90 this year and wean out the tillage and some of the beef. Then we hit the breakdown”, he said.
Not only this but on the beef side of the farm, lockdown meant they had no other alternative but keep the stock on the farm, fattening them for slaughter themselves.
“We finished up with seventy cows for the year and there is not much else I can do until next year”, said the Tipperary farmer.
“The original plan was to milk 85-90 cows and Zerograze half of their diet”, he continued.
As mentioned, Darragh and his family run not only a dairy enterprise but also keep stock for beef and a small parcel of land for tillage purposes. Their main enterprise, however, is dairy and the father and son team were milking 78 cows up until the TB lockdown late last year.
“I am happy with cow performance this year though, even with the high number of heifers in the herd”, Darragh stated.
Darragh and his father aim to have all cows calved down by every year by the end of March. Calving usually starts at the beginning of February, while the Scott’s generally sell any April calvers every year.
“Whatever is left in April on a normal year, we sell them. There is a big market there for late calving Friesians. There are farmers out there that want them, but they are an effort really”, he noted.
The farm currenlty have 31 replacement heifers ready to join the team for the coming year and they predominantly use AI for breeding purpoLimousinimousin bull was used last year on the cows to mop up, with an Angus out with the heifers.
“This year I went back to Friesian bulls for mopping up, Purely because they are a bit more active and I need as many cows as I can in-calf this year”, said Darragh.
The family were going to buy a new parlour a couple of years ago in 2016, having previously only had a 4-unit. Darragh though, decided that they had spent enough on farm facilities over the course of that twelve-month period and made the sensible decision to instead install a second-hand 5-unit Double-up Dairymaster parlour.
“Milk prices were on the floor...I saw a five-unit Double-up on Done deal and I bought it”, Darragh explained.
“I was also getting married that Winter and I thought I had enough bills coming in”, Darragh laughed.
On the beef front, the Scott’s run a closed farm, meaning any beef cattle raised were born on the home-farm. They keep the majority of all bull calves, varying in breeds from Limousin to Hereford, Aberdeen Angus and Friesians.
“They are usually a mixture of Friesians, Hereford, Angus, Limousin… A bit of everything”, said Darragh.
“Beef stock were always our kind of relief, especially if the weather becomes tough...They are only the 13th milk cheque, they are not the main enterprise on the farm”, Darragh noted.
All of the calves are raised on the farm, usually on the outside block, where they are brought up to around 20 to 21 months old and sold as stores. The farming pair had been finishing them at one stage themselves but moved away from this enterprise to instead focus more on improving the dairy herd. This, as mentioned earlier, has changed this year due to the farm being on lockdown, though Darragh says they will revert to their old ways once lockdown has finally been lifted.
“We usually house them straight away and finish them on sugar beet and meal”, he noted.
The Scotts, having always kept a high quantity of lands for tillage in the past, actually carry out the majority of their own contracting work.
“At one stage there were two combines in the yard”, he said.
“We do all of our own contracting work, bar baling...My father man is a tillage and machinery man at heart”, he continued.
The only exception to that is baling duties, which is hired out to neighbouring contractors. They also operate a Zerograzing-like system with a double-top mower, which Darragh said is vital when running a farm so fragmented.
“Our land is very fragmented, we had a motorway go through our lad in 2005 and we got left with a milking platform of 38-acres..Everything else is away from the parlour, in four different blocks”, Darragh noted.
The new motorway meant the Scotts had no option but to seek an alternative system of providing grass to their stock, as herding cows from one block to the other would not have been feasible in any way.
The Scotts differ also in that they have a Lely discovery helping out with the yard work.
When asked of plans for the future, the first port of call on Darragh’s list of ambitions is to finally get the all-clear for his herd and have the farm lockdown lifted.
“I hope to be clear from TB anyway. We have been through one 60-day test and I have another one in about three weeks. If we can get clear in that, the world is my oyster”, he laughed.
On the tillage front, it is likely that the Scott’s will abandon their tillage operations in 2018. Otherwise, Darragh and his family will not look too far into the future but still hopes to increase milking numbers at some stage.
“We will wait and see how it goes”, said Darragh.
Why Ag -
A fifth-generation farmer (at least), Darragh not only relishes the extra responsibility of being his own boss, but also the satisfaction of being able to see the fruits of his hard work.
“You can do what you want and if you make mistakes it is your own problem”, said Darragh.
“It’s a healthy job too, you’re active every day. If you want to take a day off, you can take a day off”, he added.
It is safe to say that farming and dairy farming, in particular, forms a significant part in Darragh's life and is firmly flowing through his veins. A man driven by not only family pride but also a long-standing family tradition, Darragh Scott may have taken longer than most to make the decision to return home, though despite the recent difficulties he couldn’t be happier with his choice.
Don’t forget to check out Darragh’s takeover on our Snapchat this morning. You can get it now at - thatsfarming.