Grennan’s Organic Dairy Farm is based between Kilbeggan and Clara, and it’s run by a father and son team. Gerard and Darren Grennan supply Glenisk with their milk, all produced organically on their 68-hectare farm.
Darren says that their cows are yielding about 6,000 litres each per year. Right now, he and Gerard are milking 80 cows, but as 2017 progresses, he hopes to have bumped up their herd number to 110 cows.
“We milk British Friesian cows. When we were conventional farming, we had 80 cows. In 2010 we converted so we started off with a lower number of 60 cows. We didn’t think we’d be able to carry many more, but now we’re up to 80,” explained Darren.
“They’re fed on 1.2 tonne organic nuts,” he explains. Feeding the right amount is perhaps even more necessary on an organic farm than it is on a conventional one, according to Darren:
“Don’t be afraid to feed the meal to the cows. It’s expensive but you’ll get returns on it. Don’t go making your own rations. People have combi-crops and they think that should be good enough, but buy proper nuts. We only use proper organic dairy feed.”
For the Grennans, converting wasn’t a big hassle at all. Now six years certified, it was a simple enough process for the pair.
“We just did the organic course, and that was it,” says Darren. Many farmers worry about the paperwork and conversion periods, but for the Grennans, it seems to have been no big problem.
What was surprising for them though, was how well grass is growing organically. They expected that there’d be some trouble growing it without chemical fertiliser, but they found that it’s fine after a while of letting it adapt.
“I suppose it’s like a drug; if you keep giving something the drug, it’ll wait for it. We just let the grass be without it for a while and it’s grand then. It takes a year or two, but we used plenty of dung and slurry. Lads think you can’t grow grass with no fertiliser but you can.”
Prices were what pushed the Grennans to change to organic. Like most farmers, especially those in the dairy sector, prices are falling to devastating lows.
“The price was what made us decide. The other market was jumping, but with organic you’re guaranteed a set price,” he says.
Going organic isn’t without its little pitfalls, however. For these two, it was converting with no support from others in dairy that made things more difficult.
“When we were converting, there wasn’t that much information available. We would have liked someone to talk to. In about a 2 or 3 mile radius around us, there are about 30 organic farmers but they’re all beef and sheep. There were no dairy farmers to talk to.”
However, the benefits so far sound extraordinarily worthwhile for Grennan’s Organic Dairy Farm: “The best thing about it is the good health. Our cows are a lot healthier, and their fertility is much higher.”
So, what happens now? We asked them what their plans for the future were, apart from expanding to 110 cows...
“Just keep milking!”
If you’re an organic farmer, get in touch and you might be featured next.