This week’s featured Young farmer is not only a regular contributor of our Dairy Update but was also named the best emerging female at the recent FBD Young Farmer of the Year awards, Ms Louise Crowley. Read her story below.
Name - Louise Crowley
Farm - Milking 120 cows on 239-acre holding.
Performance - Protein 4.06%, Butterfat 4.64%, Lactose 4.47%, SCC 313, Cows producing approx 15litres and fed 3kgs of nuts.
The eldest of three daughters born into the Crowley family’s dairy farm, it was always inevitable that Louise’s life would become entangled within agriculture in some way shape or form.
The third-generation farmer hails from Tullovin near Croom in Limerick, where she and her father run the family dairy enterprise, Tullovin Castle Farm Ltd, side by side.
“I am the third-generation farmer.” Louise noted.
“My grandaunt would have bought the farm originally…They bought it in 1967 and they were dairying from then on. They moved up from Cork City and just got the notion to go buy a farm in Limerick.” Louise explained.
This is what marked the beginning of the Crowley family’s involvement in the dairy industry and Louise’s father eventually took over the running of it from his Aunt and Uncle. This meant that Louise’s childhood was spent helping out on the family farm alongside her father and because of this early taste of the industry, Louise knew from a young age that her future lay in agriculture.
“I would have always been around the farm. I have no brothers and being the eldest of three daughters, I would have been the first to be asked to give a hand.” Louise told Kevin.
“I knew by the time I was going doing my Junior Cert, that I was going to go farming. I had already decided at that point that it was all I wanted to do.” She continued.
Young farmer Louise, who turns 24 at the end of November, is now currently in a farm partnership with her father John and together they milk a herd of 120 cows on their farm near Croom. All-in-all, Louise and her father run their substantial operation on 239-acres in total, with an out farm in Meanus recently purchased having been previously leased on the long-term.
“The home block is 167-acres and the farm we bought is 72-acres.” Louise told That’sFarming.
The farming duo are currently working with a herd of predominantly Friesian type cattle, with some Jerseys thrown in for good measure. Cows are currently milked on the family’s 13-Unit Dairymaster parlour which features ACR, Dump lines, an Autowasher and a Cluster cleanse system.
“At the moment we are milking 120, but I had an outbreak with Staphylococcus aureus Mastitis in June and had to cull thirty cows from the herd.” Louise stated.
“I’m lucky my vet was so good (Adare vets) …He just wanted himself to try and get the problem sorted. They are first class.”
Always Ag/ Journey thus far -
Encouraged to pursue a future career working within agriculture and the dairy industry more specifically, Louise focused her third level education on achieving those goals, by heading to Pallaskenry to study a Dairy Herd Management course.
This, she completed in 2015 before deciding to go further again and study a B.SC in Agriculture in C.I.T. in Clonakilty straight after, from which she graduated only last week. Before making the return home, Louise also got a chance to take in a working trip abroad, where she spent a six-month period working on a 1,000-strong dairy farm on the North Island in New Zealand.
“I was lucky because I got to go and work on a dairy farm in New Zealand In 2017 as part of being in C.I.T.” Louise said.
“I worked for Pirie farms on the North Island.” She adds.
As mentioned, Louise and her father are milking 120 Friesian-type cows at the moment on their 239-acre holding.
“There are a few Jerseys there as well. About one-quarter of the herd would have been Jersey crossbreds, but a few of them had to go this year due to their cell count.” She continued.
Louise and her father currently run a winter milking system, something introduced by the family in recent years to ensure a steady stream of income for the farm.
“This is the third year we have done it now. It suited us as when I was in College as I was off for most of December and the month of January.” Louise explained.
“I was around to do the winter milking side of it and dad would get his break. With the two of us it works, one of us can get a break and the other one covers it…It is also a very long winter if you have no milk cheque coming in until February or March.” She advised.
The home farm in Tullovin consists of 167-acres in total, with this making up the entirety of the milking herd’s grazing platform. Generally, Cows are granted access to each paddock three times, though some paddocks were strip grazed this year due to the prolonged drought.
“My paddocks normally get three grazes and I have been strip grazing nearly all of this year.” Louise explained.
“It is just the way the year went.”
The recently purchased 72-acre out farm in Meanus is mainly used for silage purposes before heifers are brought there to graze following the second silage cut.
“Everything stays on the home farm until the second cut is done…Then the calves go over about six weeks after the second cut” Louise said.
“I have 59 calves over there at the moment and they will stay there until Christmas,” Louise explained to Kevin.
Calving on the farm usually commences in early December, with replacement heifers calved down for winter milking purposes. The aim is to have the entire herd calved down by the end of April. In general, the Crowley’s aim to keep an average of 40 replacement heifers each year, though this year there are 55 in line to join the herd.
“We have 55 to join the herd this year. Thirty-five of them will be calving from about the 10th of December up until Christmas,” Louise told Kevin.
“I will have another twenty calving then in March…My cows won’t start calving until around the first of February.” Louise added.
This means the family will aim to milk approximately 160 by next Spring, with some cows likely to be culled and some replacements sold off. Bull calves born on the farm or those sired from one of the farm’s beef bulls are sold at the earliest convenience to regular repeat customers. Any remaining calves are simply sold in local marts come the end of the season.
“I am lucky enough; my Friesian bull calves are bought out of the yard…I have another dealer who comes into the yard and he will buy the Whitehead calves or the beef calves.” Louise noted.
In terms of breeding on the farm, Louise and her father decided to abandon the use of A.I. in recent years due to a lack of satisfactory results and high costs. This is why they now keep a team of bulls on their farm, one Friesian, a Hereford, An Angus and two Limousines.
“We try and stay away from A.I. as we are finding it very costly. Two years ago, we used it and the rates we were getting out of it were very poor. I wasn’t even getting 50% back.” Louise said.
“So, I have a Friesian stock bull, A Hereford, An Angus and Two Limousine bulls and I just let them cover them (the cows).” She added.
Louise pictured below at the Macra National Ag Conference 2018.
Other ventures -
The ever-busy Louise has also been working for Farm Relief services for the past four years and is currently working on a relief milking basis for another dairy farm in the locality.
“I am milking now Mondays to Thursdays mainly…I will be finishing up there at the end of November, to be home in time for the heifers calving.” Louise told That’sFarming.
If that were not enough to keep her going, the soon-to-be 24-year-old is also a pivotal member of her local Macra club, Crecora, Manister and Croom Macra, where she currently holds the role of Secretary. Louise was also recently made the secretary of Limerick County Macra and subsequently won the Best Emerging Female award at the recent FBD/Macra Young Farmer of the Year Awards (Pictured below is Louise receiving her award).
What does the future hold for Louise and Tullovin Castle Farm Ltd?
In terms of the future, the main aim for the coming years is to increase the milking herd to at least 170 cows.
“The plan would be to go to 170 (cows).” Louise said.
Louise admits that the facilities are in good shape at the minute, with no major construction plans on housing units for the coming years. One piece of construction that will be carried out in the coming year, however, is the expansion of the milking parlour.
“Building-wise, the next plan would be to extend the milking parlour.” Louise noted.
“The plan would be to put in at least 22 if not 26-units. I am hoping to do it maybe this time next year.” She told Kevin.
Otherwise, the other aim for the coming years is to fix up the recently purchased farm in Meanus, with reseeding to take place, fencing and much more.
“That all has to be reseeded. Fencing water and all of that has to go in.” She said.
Why Agriculture -
Driven by a passion for animals and working outdoors, Louise gets great satisfaction from being able to watch the results of the family’s hard work as well as the variety of the job.
“You get to see animals from day one when they are born to when they are nine or ten years old.” She noted.
“You are very involved in everything and you have to cover so many aspects…Every day is different” the young farmer added.
She admits that farming to her is much more than just a job, but rather a way of life. She also cited the close-knit nature of the farming community as another contributory factor to why she loves what she does.
“It is a lifestyle of its own.” She said.
“I find within farming there is such a close-knit community, even in tough years.” She continued.
As passionate and determined as any farmer out there, Louise Crowley was named this year’s Best Emerging Female for a reason. Dedicated to the cause and with a true grá for what she does, the only direction is up for this week’s featured Young Farmer, Ms Louise Crowley.
Would you like to be featured like Louise and maybe even take over our Snapchat for the day? If so, Contact Kevin with details of your farming background at Kforde@thatsfarming.com.