Name: Aran Connell
Farm: Dairy farm, milking 140 Holstein Friesian’s in farm partnership with his father.
Location: Mizen Head, West Cork.
Parlour: DeLaval - 13-unit, with auto cluster remover.
Performance: 470kgs milk solids in 2017, fed 800kgs meal. Averaging 30 litres per cow at the moment, with butterfat at 4.50, and protein at 3.22.
To some, farming in Mizen head in Co. Cork can be a challenging task, though Aran Connell and his father are having little trouble. The father and son team, as mentioned, keep a herd of 140 Holstein cattle on a farm of just over 250-acres, overcoming any difficulties one might face in the area.
“A lot of the land is very marginal. About 50% of the land would be reasonably dry around her, but the other 50%would be fairly wet and challenging between rocks and bog holes,”, Aran said.
“Down west of Cork we kind of joke that this is men country and up there near Clonakilty and that is only for the boys”, Aran joked.
How he got into dairy:
Aran’s adventure into dairy farming, unofficially began as a child, though it officially began upon the completion of his two-year, Dairy herd management course in Clonakilty Agricultural college.
“I finished college in 2015 and we were milking about fifty cows,”, Aran explained to ThatsFarming’s Kevin.
Aran says the family were at their maximum stocking rate at this time, though got lucky as a portion of neighbouring land became available, at what was the perfect time.
“We got lucky that a neighbour retired and offered us his farm for lease. We got an extra 70 or 80 acres and it was an ex-dairy farm, so all we had to do was make a hole in the ditch,”, he said.
“We were lucky enough”, he added.
It was then that Aran entered the farm partnership with his father, as he had taken on the lease of the new farm himself. Aran said of the land they have under their control at the moment, approximately 40ha are fit for dairying and says they are close to their maximum stocking rate again. Any remaining land not used for dairy is kept for silage or used to raise calves.
The family are on a full winter milk system, though calving does start earlier than normal, as early as January 15th. This means they generally have a few to be milked during the winter, something introduced by Aran upon his return home. A small portion of cows are calved in October and then milk late calvers and empty cows during the winter.
“We don’t like being idle,”, he joked.
“There is not massive money out of it, as we don’t get a winter bonus, but it helps cover some of the winter expenses,”, Aran stated.
As mentioned above, any calves born on the farm are kept by the Connell’s and raised as replacement heifers and bulls reared for beef. They are fattened on a two-year-system, before being sold off.
“We always kept the bull calves, because we always had outside land. We had more than enough outside land for cutting silage and we had to do something else with it, so we always kept a few dry cattle.”, Aran explained.
“This year we have kept all the calves…We rear them until they are two years old. We fatten most of them, and we sell some of them in the mart before they go in for their second winter in around October,”, he continued.
The genetics used on the farm is strictly Holstein Friesian, though they run with a stock Angus and Hereford bull. Aran says the father and son team are not overly concerned with how any bulls born come out, as they are more for the dairy focus. All calves are weighed on the farm every other week, so Aran and his father can monitor the progress made and identify if any improvements are needed, though Aran admits they are doing very well.
Making their own feed:
Not content with the high quantity of labour involved with running a dairy operation, Aran and his father also make their own silage every year. Not only this, but they also grow and keep their own fodder beet, which is used as feed during winter months. This was all started by Aran and tips and tricks he picked up whilst on work placement.
“Before, it was just a simple diet of silage and meal. But when I came out of college and was on placement, I came back with a couple of different ideas about meal. So, we started getting fodder beet then, which we bought the first year,”, Aran said.
“When we took on the second farm, there was a couple of fields where we could grow it, so we chanced it and we have been doing it for the past four or five years now. We plant five or six acres every year,”, he added.
Any fodder beet grown is kept on the farm, with more bought in if needed. He said in previous years, before the current feed crisis, they bought excess beet of other farmers and mixed it into their cattle’s diets. Aran says the results achieved by using beet has not only helped milk yields, but also body condition, while diet feeding has also helped achieve this.
“We are definitely benefitting from it anyway,”, he stated.
The past year on the farm in Mizen Head has been very busy indeed, with Aran taking a lot of new ideas home from his college education. This has led to the family not only increasing cattle numbers but also improving infrastructure along the way.
“We have made a lot of investment on the farm over the past couple of years now. We had a nice set up for fifty cows, but when the numbers going up we had to put up extra cubicle sheds, extend the calf house, we made a new silage pit as well and more slurry storage.”, said Aran.
“We also put in an automatic calf feeder as well to save on labour…This is our second season with it now and we have had no trouble with calves on it. It is a great job, I think every dairy farmer should have one. They are pricey to buy, but if you are rearing over 60 calves, then I think it is the way to go!”, he explained.
To try and help improve the milk performance of the herd, the family have begun using bulls with higher percentages as they feel this will improve milk solids.
Aran could never envisage a career, other than one in the dairy business, such is his passion for the cause. He says he was ‘born into it’ and doesn’t see it as a job.
“I could never classify it as a job, but rather a way of life.”, Aran said to Kevin.
“If I was away for a week, I would be itching to get back again…Even if I was breaking even every year, this is what I would be doing anyway…The minute the sun starts shining in a few weeks’ again, we will all be delighted and forget about anything else that happened that was bad,”, Aran concluded.
Aran had always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps since the age of six or seven he admits it was “farming, farming, farming”. A fourth-generation farmer, the Connell’s have a rich history in the industry, something which Aran will continue into the distant future.
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