This week’s featured Young Farmer is 26-year-old Wexford native, Eamon Byrne, who was a 2018 FBD Young Farmer of the year finalist and runs a milking herd of 200 cows alongside his brother.
Name - Eamon Byrne
Age - 26
Farm - Milking 200 spring calving herd in partnership with his brother. 140 Holstein/Friesian cows and 60 Jersey crossbreds.
Performance - Holstein/Friesian - Achieving 18 litres per cow with Butterfat content of 4.47% and Protein of 4.16. Jersey X herd - 14 litres per cow, with Butterfat at 5.72% and protein at 4.56%.
Born and raised in the Model county that is Wexford, Eamon Byrne was always destined for a life in agriculture and is himself the third generation Byrne to farm in Rosslare Harbour.
It was here on the Byrne family dairy farm near Rosslare Harbour in Wexford county that the 2018 FBD Young Farmer of the Year finalist has spent the majority of his life. Here he and his brother, Barry, run a 200-strong spring calving dairy herd, consisting of 140 Holstein/Friesian cows and a further 60 Jersey cross animals.
Together with his brother, Barry, they run the family dairy farm having taken over from their parents, Francis and Willie, in 2014. At the time of their return home, Eamon’s brother Barry was working as an Engineer by trade, while Eamon was working on a nearby dairy farm.
The pair started off with a milking herd of approximately 50 cows back in 2014, before gradually building up the herd size to the 200-strong herd now milked today.
“I am farming in a partnership with my brother Barry, who is 31. Our parents handed over the farm to us back in 2014…I moved home full-time in 2015 so we could make a go of it” Eamon explained to Kevin of That’sFarming.
The pair not only increased their milking herd in recent years but also their farm size, taking on a lease on a neighbouring dairy farm approximately 1km from their home farm.
“We were milking 50 cows at the time…By spring of last year, we calved down 88 cows.” Eamon said.
“Barry moved home then as we were in the process of taking over another dairy farm about a mile down the road.” He continued.
This extra land allowed the farming brothers to further increase their herd size, from 88 to the 200 they now milk daily. The land is owned by farmers, Paul and Tanya Allison, who are based in Durham in England farming pedigree Saler cattle.
“Then from May of last year, we went from milking 88 up to 200 between the two farms.” Eamonn noted.
How It All Began/ Eamonn’s journey -
Always keen on pursuing a career within agriculture, Eamon progressed from completing his secondary education to completing a Dairy Herd Management degree in Kildalton Agricultural College.
“I knew myself that I wanted to go home farming, so I went off to Kildalton” Eamon told Kevin.
“I finished out in Kildalton with the Dairy Herd management degree.” He said.
The knowledge gained was all taken on board by the Wexford man and he continued his education by taking on work on a nearby dairy farm, where he worked until 2014. This was when his parents both decided to take a step back from the family farm, with Eamon and his brother Barry waiting in the wings to take the reins.
Eamon has now been back at home alongside his brother on the Byrne family farm for what is now his fourth year and the brothers couldn’t be happier with their career choice. If juggling the running of two dairy farms, side-by-side, were not enough, Eamon also finds the time to be involved with his local Camras Macra club.
System/The Farm -
As mentioned, the Byrne brothers recently added to the already substantial portion of land in their possession, by taking on the lease of another dairy farm in the locality.
The new farm added to the ranks boasted a 14-unit parlour, though the brothers increased that to 16-units recently. The original parlour on the home-farm is a 14-unit Gascoigne parlour. Milking duties, meanwhile, are split between the two parlours, with the Jersey cross herd milked on the home farm and the larger Holstein/Friesian herd milked on the newly leased farm.
“The farm down the road is a leased farm…There was a 14-unit Delaval parlour there when we moved in there, but there was room 22-units. So, we stuck on an extra two units to bring it up to 16 in the Spring just gone.” Eamon explained to Kevin.
“We have a 14-unit Gascoigne on the home farm.” He said.
With regards to who is responsible for what herd, Eamon and his brother Barry take it in turns. One brother takes the larger herd for one week and then proceeds to milk the smaller herd the following week. This, Eamon notes, allows them to have to recharge as milking the larger herd alone can prove a task in itself. The farming duo are also helped out by two local relief milkers when needed, James Byrne and Eoin Wright.
Eamon and Barry, as previously stated, run two separate herds, one consisting of 140 Holstein/Friesian cows and another with 60 Jersey cross cows. The farm had previously been involved in beef also, though Eamon and Barry have decided to instead focus their collective efforts on improving the herd’s performance.
“The foundation of the herd when we took over would have been dual purpose. They would have been into the beef as well.” Eamon stated.
“We are kind of getting away from that and breeding towards milk.” The FBD Young farmer of the Year finalist continued.
Breeding wise, the system used for breeding on the farm in Rosslare Harbour is mainly A.I., with Eamon carrying out A.I. duties himself. This is done over the course of an 8-9-week period at the start of the breeding season, with Holstein/Friesian the main genetics used, and a Hereford and Angus bull put with cows to mop up. Replacement heifers are put out with a Holstein bull following A.I.
“We do 8-9weeks A.I. and then let the bulls off with them for about three weeks.” He said.
Eamon and his brother breed with the intention of having calving commence by January 20th. The Byrne brothers then aim to have three-quarters (150) of their herd calved by the end of February.
“We aim to finish by the middle of April, but we are pulling it tighter every year.” The Young farmer said.
In general, Eamon and his brother aim to have an average of 30-40 replacements each year. Last year saw them purchasing a high quantity of replacements, with their own heifer calves sold off. All calves born on the farm are now sold at the earliest convenience, as the brothers have some good farms from which to source and purchase high performing replacements.
“We haven’t kept any beef the last three years, except this year we kept around 25 beef heifers…We had the extra land and space for feeding so we kept on the 25.” Eamon said.
“For the past few years, we have been buying in between 30-40 Friesian heifers into the herd.” Eamon continued.
On the grazing front, Eamon and his brother operate a paddock to paddock grazing system on their 60hectare grazing platform, with grass measured and all data logged to pasture base to allow for the calculation of a grass budget. If any excess grass is identified, this will be taken out of the paddocks as silage bales. The farming duo to not zerograze presently, though Eamon admits it is something they are considering for when their herd size increases again.
“It (Zerograzing) is something we will look into down the line.” Eamon stated.
Future Hopes -
With regards to the future for Eamon and the family farm, the Byrne brothers aim to gradually increase their 200-strong milking herd to 250 over the course of the next three-four-year period.
“We could probably hit for 300 cows, but then the land starts getting tight and you would be looking at taking on another full-time man then.” Eamonn said.
“Whether we want to go down that route or not yet we don’t know. We will probably go to 250 and manage it ourselves comfortably,” he added.
The brothers will also look to continue the genetic experimentation within their herd and even have a trip lined up to visit farms milking Norwegian red cattle in the coming weeks.
“We are going to go down to a few crossbred farms, some with Norwegian red. Barry wants to go around a few farms and have a look, see their type of system and how they are doing.” Eamon told That’sFarming’s Kevin.
Otherwise, the main focus for the Byrne brothers will to continue improving the performance of their herd in any way they can, whether this is by continually crossing Jerseys through the herd or by adding alternative genetics to the mix. The main aim, as it always has been, is improvement.
“We expanded a lot last year, so we will just concentrate on improving this herd, improving milk, solids and fertility.” He said.
Another item on the agenda, will be extending the lease on the nearby farm recently added to the ranks, something already previously discussed with the owner. This, Eamon hopes, will allow them to further advance the technology used on their holding and therefore lead to more time away from the farm for both Barry and Eamon.
“If we could get that farm on a long-term lease, we would maybe look into robotic milking on the home farm. If the owners do plan to move back, we are just greatful to have had the opportunity.” Eamon explained.
Why Agriculture? -
Continuing what is now a family tradition, Eamon thoroughly enjoys almost all aspects of his job as a dairy farmer, stating that it is a way of life, rather than a job.
“It’s a great way of life.” He said.
An avid outdoorsman, Eamon couldn’t imagine himself in any other career or industry.
“I love being outdoors. Farming in general is just a great way of life.” The Wexford man explained.
“I know it can be tough, but at the end of the day the rewards can be great.” Eamon concluded.
Thankfully for the dairy industry, he and his brother will continue the Byrne family involvement for many more generations to come.
Fancy taking a ten-min phone call and being interviewed like Eamon? Contact Kevin now at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.