Hailing from North Monaghan, 30-year-old Julie Mullarkey formed a farm partnership with her father Seamus (59) earlier this year.
“I honestly never thought I would get this opportunity to enter a partnership with my father at this age,” she told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
“I always thought it would be something that would be discussed when my father was a lot older.”
“This journey would not have been possible without the support of my husband, parents and family,” she added.
The family was involved in strawberry and potato production before Seamus purchased his first dairy cows in 1979.
Growing up, Julie was her father’s shadow; wherever he was, she was sure to be close by. “My fondest memory as a child was the calf shed - feeding the calves from their own individual buckets and seeing them spring around their pens,” Julie explained.
The Mullanlary Herd consists of 54 cows that carry 65-75% Holstein blood along with 25-35% British Friesian influence; there are also two Jersey-cross-types.
Traditionally, the farm was home to animals with more than 90% American Holstein blood. “An animal of this size and type was not sustainable for our farm,” explained Julie.
They father-and-daughter-duo are currently breeding a more compact animal with a high solid output. They are achieving a six-week 78% calving rate, with an average calving interval of 369 days; calving takes place from the first week of February for a 12-14-week period.
Heat is detected for four weeks prior to the commencement of AI. Cows are AI’d to Holstein sires for the first seven weeks of the breeding season, before they are served to Hereford and Aberdeen-Angus AI bulls for the last six weeks.
“We are in discussion at the moment regarding the use of a stock bull for the last 3 or 4 weeks of the breeding season.” All heifer calves are retained as replacements, while the first Holstein Friesian bull calves are also reared.
“In previous years, we have kept 10-15 of the Aberdeen Angus calves but this year, we have sold all calves to make room for herd expansion,” explained Julie.
Along with the daily running of the farm, the 30-year-old married mother is also responsible for grassland management. “I measure the platform every week or if growth is high, the measurements are taken twice weekly.”
“I use the cut and weigh method along with the Pasture Base app. The spring rotation planner was of great help in the spring past.”
Julie is also responsible for paperwork and any other administration duties. “The breeding policy is my forte. I absolutely love this time of year and although it can be busy, it gives me a great buzz!” the 30-year-old admitted.
“I enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. Yes, there are many days you need multiple layers as Ireland’s weather is so unpredictable, but I couldn’t sit at a desk from 9-5.”
“You are your own boss – that’s hard to top,” she added.
Being her own boss allows the progressive dairy farmer to engage in other activities; she competes with her 8-year-old 16.3hh chestnut mare called Ginger across the country.
“I have been horse riding since I was 11-years-old. My Sundays are now being spent with my horse club around the country.”
“I also take part in up to three circuit-type workout classes and Pilates per week. When I have a spare 30mins, I will squeeze in a light jog” she added.
Women in Ag
When asked about her experience as a woman in agriculture, Julie responded by saying: “I’m a physically strong female which has many benefits for the day-to-day running of a farm.”
“I think I blend in just fine. When people ask what I work at, I always see disbelief in their faces.”
“I give them a few seconds before ensuring them that it’s my passion and I am very privileged to be in my situation,” she added.
Hold your head up high and follow your passion - you can do it – that is Julie’s advice. “Females need to believe in themselves before anyone will believe in them.”
“I honestly am so fortunate as a female to be given the opportunity to farm,” she said.
Julie looks forward to growing the family farm with her father; they have intentions to increase their herd size to 75/80 cows.
The farming pair reseeded 4-hectares last year and have ploughed over 2.5-hectares already in 2019 with plans to completely reseed the whole platform over the next five years.
“We carefully selected our seed type to suit our growth demand.”
The Monaghan natives hope to update and expand their milking parlour – a plan they hope to have implemented next year as they are expanding their slurry storage and feeding face this year.
Their objective is to utilise the grazing platform to its maximum production while ensuring animal welfare is the top priority.
“Running the farm in a timely matter is also a goal as family and friends are significant in our life and time spent with them is important.”
“Two years ago, I married my best friend and I had a baby girl this time last year. I will ensure she knows from a young age that if she has a passion for agriculture, that I am right behind her.”
“We both look forward to bringing our kids up in an agriculture background in the middle of the countryside!” she concluded.
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