Tom Slattery is a beef and dairy farmer from Dingle, west Kerry, where he runs the family farm and milks a herd of 55 Holstein Friesians, with two Jerseys added into the mix. The calves are kept until they are 18-months-old.
The young farmer took over the running of the family farm in 2016 after completing the Green Cert in Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry.
At just twenty-two, he’s looking after 140-acres of land and leasing another 25-acres. His goal is to eventually grow the herd and farm size, but that’s further down the line at the moment.
The farm originally belonged to his grandparents - Tom and Mary - before his parents - Michael and Mary - took it over and now Tom himself is running it, but not without the help of the entire family.
The Kerry man also has three sisters.
Tom thanks his father Michael for giving him the opportunity to come home and run the farm, even though he was under no pressure to do so, but such is his love for the career, Tom is exactly where he wants to be and has said that he had wanted to be a farmer his entire life.
"I wouldn’t be where I am without dad, he gave me great responsibility and great encouragement,” said the enthusiastic farmer, who acknowledges that he learned everything he knows from watching his family around him.
He’s not afraid to try out new ideas and revealed that the two Jersey cows among the Holsteins are part of a trial to see how the breed performs.
The herd are typically producing 30-litres a day with a butterfat content of 4.24% and protein levels of 3.53%.
Tom looks for a high solids count, good milk yield and good fertility in a breeding female. He undertook a DIY AI course with Munster Bovine in Cork and now would AI about 40% of the herd independently and the rest with the help of a technician.
He has had success with this method and is happy that most of the cows were able to carry on their first round. An Aberdeen Angus stock bull is then introduced to clean up.
The herd are on a spring-calving system and start calving from February 1st and continue until the end of April.
Due to the good weather that was experienced this spring, the cows were out to pasture since the middle of March, much to Tom’s delight, “It’s been great, a real treat, he smiled.
As well as fluctuating milk prices, tough cattle prices and the threat of Brexit, Tom said that the weather is something that he finds most challenging.
Commenting on the disastrous weather experienced in Ireland last year he said, “I could have sold up but I was determined not to. It’s awful easy to give up but it can’t rain forever”.
The setback was felt across the country at the time, but the Dingle man’s love for farming and the encouragement from his family were enough to see him through.
The Slatterys have a six-unit DeLaval herringbone parlour, but not for long, as always, Tom is looking at the bigger picture.
They plan to install a new twelve-unit parlour at the end of the year to go with the new tank that was installed a couple of years ago.
“Hopefully, by the time I’m thirty, I’d have 100 cows and I’d be looking into a cow management system or a MooMonitor and drafting out system at the parlour,” he explained.
The cows are currently on a 21- day grazing rotation and Tom said that he will start measuring growth as he has been operating on the knowledge that has been instilled in him up until now.
Michael Slattery works full-time off-farm but he loves his machinery “The tractors are minded like babies” laughed his son, “we do plant hire our own baling and wrapping, we do our own slurry and reseeding. We do all our own work here,” he said.
As well as everybody doing their bit on the farm – grandmother Mary still loves working with the calves – both Tom and the farm have been given the space to evolve and grow.
"My dad is very open to change, explained Tom, he let me do the AI course and let me buy all the gear,” he added, noting that he is very lucky and thankful for that.
The forward-thinking young man is a member of Chorca Duibhne Macra in Dingle and enjoys going to the various events and meetings held by the club.
The advice that he would give to other young farmers is that “It is tough but you have to just keep moving."
There are so many things that Tom enjoys about farming that he finds it difficult to single out just one aspect; “I love getting up at six o' clock in the morning and going over for the cows, being out in the fresh air. I’m fit because I’m always walking."
"I love all of it really,” he concluded.
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