Born and raised near Puckaun, Nenagh in Co. Tipperary, Shane Seymour has been involved in agriculture for what has been the majority of his 26-years.
Hailing from a dairy background, the 26-year-old now runs his operation alongside his father, John, and mother, Nora. Shane is the third-generation of the Seymour family to have farmed these land near Nenagh, with his grandfather the one who commenced their involvement in the industry.
“I am the third-generation farmer here now,” Shane told Kevin of That’sFarming.
The family always had an involvement in dairy since starting their farming enterprise, though they originally ran a mixed farm keeping both beef stock and sheep.
“It has always been dairy, but it would have been a mixed farm with a good bit of beef,” Shane explained.
“In the past ten years we have been gradually getting out of that (beef). There were sheep too, probably 15-years ago. That was before my time though.” He continued.
Shane is now running the family farm in a partnership alongside his father, John, since making his return home after college back in 2015.
“Myself and my father are in a partnership.” Shane said to That’sFarming.
“We actually went into our fourth year of the partnership this year.” He adds.
Since making his return home, Shane and his father have successfully increased their milking herd from around 70-80 cows to 146-strong.
“My father only milked 70-80 cows and I am calving 146 this spring.” Shane told Kevin.
“Next year, we plan to get to 170/180. That’s the plan,” he added.
Shane’s progression -
For Shane growing up, the ambition was always to secure a future on the family farm in Co. Tipperary.
Following the completion of his secondary education, the Tipperary native took in a trip to W.I.T. where he studied Agriculture, before finishing up with his degree in 2015.
“I was in W.I.T for four years,” Shane said.
This was followed by a few months spent on 800-cow dairy farm in New Zealand as part of his college work placement. Cows were milked on a 48-unit Herringbone parlour and this experience was one that Shane wouldn’t trade for anything in the world and one, he feels, helped prepare him for the real world of agriculture.
“I was in New Zealand then for a couple of months on my placement.” Shane noted.
“To be honest, it was probably the most I have learned from the experience of being in college. You just learn so much out there on a really good farm, using a really good, low-cost, grass-based system. I learned the world of it out there.” He adds.
After this once in a lifetime experience had concluded, the time had come for Shane to finally make his return home and upon his return, he entered into the farm partnership with his father and his mother, Nora. They have now been in the partnership for four years this year.
“I said the only way I would do it is if he (Shane's father) was willing to increase the herd to over 100-cows starting off.” Shane said of entering into the partnership.
The Farm -
As mentioned, Shane and his father are currently milking a herd of 146-cows. These consist of mainly Holstein/Friesian types, though upon Shane’s return to the home-farm he began a stringent crossbreeding process.
“My father’s herd when I first came home was all Holstein/Friesian.” Shane said.
“For the past three years, I have been crossbreeding hard, so about 80% of my in-calf heifers are crossbreds and a similar number of our weanlings are crossbred…It is still a predominantly Holstein herd. Next year calving down it will be about 30-33% crossbreds, with the rest Holstein Friesian” he advised.
Cows are milked in the family’s 12-unit parlour and the herd achieved 480kgs of milk solids last year, with an average of 6,500 litres per cow. The family are running a spring-calving herd, with calving usually commencing on the farm near Nenagh from the first of February.
“We aim for the first few days of February,” said Shane of calving on the farm.
A.I. is all carried out on the farm by Shane himself, something started two years ago by the farmer. He usually carries it out over the course of 7-weeks, with an Angus stock bull used to mop up.
“I did it all myself the last two years,” Shane said of A.I. on the farm.
“I do 7-weeks of dairy-bred A.I. with a good bit of beef in between on poorer quality cows and the Angus bull then let out with them.” he adds.
Once cows are calved, the plan on the farm in Puckaun is to get them out to grass as soon as they can.
“As soon as cows start calving here, they are out to grass straight away.” said the farmer.
“That’s the plan anyway. It is a grass-based system and we try to keep the meal levels reasonable enough.” He adds.
This means grass measuring is of paramount importance on the farm, with Shane inspecting paddocks at least once a week.
“I try to get out once a week,” Shane said of grass measuring.
Their farm is run on 217-acres in total, of which 10-acres is leased. On the grazing platform, there is 160-acres altogether, with cows grazed in a paddock to paddock system. Shane also reseeded 50% of the farm over the past two years.
“Altogether there is 207-acres owned and there is another 10-acres leased.” The Young Farmer noted.
“On the milking platform there is about 160-acres…Last year it was about three grazings per paddock and going forward with 146 cows that might be reduced to two (grazings)…I am a big believer of no more than three-grazings per paddock,” he advised.
(One of the recently reseeded paddocks)
Any replacement heifers born on the farm are kept, with the hopes of enabling Shane to increase the milking herd to the targetted 180 cows. He also bought some in-calf maiden heifers this year to help his reach his targets, with replacements chosen from high EBI-ranking herds.
“For the past number of years, it has been as many as we could possibly get,” said Shane of replacement heifers.
“I actually bought in 15 maiden in-calf heifers last October. I have 43 maiden heifers this year and I will probably have the bones of 60-70 dairy heifers this year too, all going well.” he explained.
When the family were previously involved in the beef production sector, they were keeping their own dairy-born bull calves and raising them for bull beef. For the past two years, however, the family have been selling any bull calves at one and a half years old.
“What we have done for the past two years is sell them as one and a half year olds, off grass.” Said Shane.
“There will be no bull calves kept this year.” He explains.
Future Hopes -
In terms of the future, it most definitely looks bright for Shane and his father, with the Tipperary native keen to increase his milking herd even further over the coming months.
The number he has in mind is 180 cows and he will also soon revert back from the stringent crossbreeding programme he recently put in place. As has always been the case since his return home, Shane will look to improve the farm in any way possible in the years to come.
“This year going forward I will be using all Friesian on whatever comes through.” Shane noted.
“I always had a five-year plan…The plan was to get over 150-cows…I have 185 to the bull this year, so I would want 160-170 by next year.” He added.
The Seymour family only this year got rid of the family’s Angus stock bull, meaning another will soon arrive on the Tipperary farm. Shane is unsure yet whether the family will again go with an Angus, or instead make the switch to a Hereford bull.
“Angus or Hereford…I don’t really care, once they're easy-calving.” He said.
Another change likely over the coming years, though not in the short-term, is an upgrade on the family’s 12-unit milking parlour. This change will coincide with the milking herd increasing in size. Another change that will most definitely happen and before next summer if possible, is the construction of a new 100-cubicle housing unit. This will also allow the family to get closer to their 180-cow target.
“It is probably due an upgrade over the next couple of years.” Shane said to Kevin of the family’s milking parlour.
“I have plans gone in for a 100-cubicle house shed too…Hopefully we will get going on that over the summer as we currently have two cows per unit at the minute, so it is not ideal.” he added.
Shane admitted that if another unit in the locality became available to rent then they may consider it, though he and his father are more than content with the progression made over the past four years.
“If other opportunities come up down the line, whether that’s leasing another unit, it would be something to consider.” said the Tipperary man.
“But I have enough for the time being.” He laughed.
Aalso at some stage in the distant future, the time will come for Shane’s father, John, and mother, Nora, to hang up the overalls and wellies, leaving Shane to take complete control. Although this is an inevitablility, it is not likely to occur for many years yet.
Why Agriculture? -
For Shane, there is no one reason behind the 26-year-old’s passion for the dairy industry and agriculture in general.
He not only enjoys the flexibility of the job, but also being his own boss and making his own improvements on the farm. He also enjoys the job satisfaction in watching the fruits of his hard labour. He also noted the close-knit nature of the farming community as another reason behind his passion for agriculture.
“The biggest thing for me is being my own boss…and seeing the progression in how far I have come…Stuff like that drives you on,” said Shane of why he loves what he does.
“There is a very good community around too.” He added.
Although Shane admits that agriculture can prove a challenging industry, the good outweighs the bad for the young dairy farmer and he admits that he wouldn’t trade it for the world. To put it simply, dairy farming is all he ever knew.
“There is great flexibility in it (dairy farming), even though you are tied to the cows. Around this area, it is not hard to get someone to milk the cows for you.” He explained to Kevin of That’sFarming.
“I just like the lifestyle of it…I just enjoy it and I am good at it. I was never really good at anything else, books or that, it was always cows that I was always good at and I just stuck at it,” Shane concluded.
Are you a young farmer between the ages of 18 and 40 like Shane? Want to share your story and be featured just like the Tipperary farmer? If so, drop Kevin and email with a short biography at firstname.lastname@example.org