Many 20-year-olds would be interested in travelling the world or still enjoying their ‘party’ years, not so much Raymond Kelly.
That’s not to say he hasn’t had his own share fun, but Raymond now devotes his time to the running of his family dairy farm in Co. Tipperary. He does this with one of his brothers, while his other brother, who is an Ag mechanic, lends a helping hand at the weekend.
The pair of brothers farm just over 180 Holstein Friesians, which are milked twice a day. This is done in the families recently modernised milking parlour. They now run a 14 bay, Dairymaster fitted with cluster removers and dump line. This has helped them reduce manual labour significantly. While investment in machinery has also helped reduce manual labour to a great effect.
The family not only run a dairy farm but also keep all calves for beef. These are then sold at local marts at a year and a half.
“You have to utilise the land as you can’t milk off all of it”, says Raymond.
The family's dairy farm has impressive numbers to show for their hard work, with average butterfat at 3.91 and protein at 3.5. Raymond says milk prices are a constant worry to dairy farmers, with prices fluctuating like a yo-yo.
“In two years time, it could drop down below thirty. We can’t bank on good years every year”, said Raymond.
Days at the farm start at the ripe time of 5:30 am, milking carried out early in the morning and late in the evening. Daily chores could involve anything from completing the weekly grass-walk, checking cattle, fencing, general maintenance and cleaning.The family also buffer feed now daily, with cows getting a kilogram of beet in the morning and 2kgs of silage in the evenings.
The family also make their own silage every year, which means summer months are ever hectic. Like most farms, they place a strong emphasis on grassland management.
“We wouldn’t feed much meal now to cows, it’s more off the grass. It’s just the cheapest form”, he said.
Education and the future:
Upon completing his leaving certificate in 2014, Raymond went straight to Kildalton Agricultural college where he completed a two-year degree. There was no time for resting on his laurels though, as upon graduation in 2016 he went back to work at the family farm.
He and his brother are involved in local discussion groups, which Raymond feels are a great way of learning. He says they offer each other tips and advice on dealing with problems. He finds it useful to have another perspective on some issues facing the industry and farmers.
“It’s a good way of getting to know other farmers. If they have a problem with something you can discuss it amongst yourselves. It’s a real learning forum”.
For the future, the farm hopes to continue with the beef side, while also increasing dairy numbers. They hope to next year calve over 200 dairy cows and increase as they go thereafter.
“As long as we get more land we’ll keep motoring”, he said.
Raymond says the main challenge facing him when he entered the industry was trying to win the approval of the ageing farming population. He says there is a certain degree of ageism, with many farmers not respecting your opinion.
“Age is the problem. It’s grand not, just at the start getting people to agree with you and listen to you”, he said
“There are not many young farmers, the age profile would be older”, he added.
He listed milk prices as a problem facing his farm daily, while the wet weather has also dampened the farm’s operation. He did add that beef prices are also not helping the situation, but says it’s better to keep the cattle on the land than leave it idle. He says the increase of calves on the market is the reason for recent price competition.
“You couldn’t plan what you’re going to make of cattle now...There’s a dilution of calves at the moment” too much out there now, leading to the competition of prices”, he said.
Raymond loves what he does as he feels it is a good way of life. He advised young farmers contemplating a career in the industry not to be deterred as he says it is very rewarding.
“It’s a good way of life, you’re out in the open, you’re outside. The hours may be long, but it’s really rewarding”.
“When you see the end product of the whole process, it gives you great satisfaction”, he concluded.