In Kilcogy Upper, Co Cavan, lies the Lakelands nominee, an exceptional dairy farm that embodies the true essence of the Irish family farm model.

Owned and operated by Kilian Brennan, his wife Madeline, and their three children, Chloe, Ryan, and Dara, this award-winning farm has become a testament to hard work, unwavering commitment and remarkable success, even in the face of the challenging terrain and adverse weather conditions Cavan offers.

Since 2003, the farm has undergone a remarkable transformation from milking a mere 40 cows to a thriving herd of 120.

Kilian’s unwavering dedication to improving genetics as the herd expanded has been pivotal in their accomplishments. Notably, the acquisition of quality crossbred heifers has not only contributed to enhancing milk solids but has also proven to be better suited for the unique Cavan terrain.

The entire Brennan family is involved in farm activities and Ryan recently won an FBD award for farm safety in a schools competition.

Madeline does paperwork as well as relief milking. Children Chloe, Ryan and Dara clean cubicles, calf bedding and droving cows. Milking time is moved to 3pm as to be finished at 5.30pm to allow more family time.

Kilian’s meticulous approach to breeding replacements involves judiciously using sexed semen on the best cows, selected through milk recording data.

These younger cows, many of which were carefully chosen for their high EBI, are complemented by the use of Belgian Blue and Angus semen on the remaining herd. The incorporation of heat-detection collars, which also monitor health, and an auto-drafter, further ensure optimal animal welfare and reproductive management.

Automatic machine wash is used to achieve top-quality milk using hot water every second day at a temperature of 78OC. The detergent used is Puresan chlorine free at a rate of 1% with fresh cleaning products used for every cleaning event. The circulation time is eight minutes.

A descale wash is carried out twice weekly using Purechem acid descaler. Peracetic acid (200ml) is used in the final rinse twice daily. The same detergent and acid products are used for the bulk tank.

Animal welfare and health are of paramount importance to the Brennans, which is reflected in their recent recognition as Ulster winners of the Prevention for Profit Awards.

They have taken great measures to maintain roadways, minimising the risk of lameness and have even installed AstroTurf on high-traffic areas.

The calf-rearing process is overseen by Kilian’s parents, who have achieved exceptional results with zero calf mortality by providing jackets for heifer calves in their crucial first three weeks.

Core business

To allow Kilian to focus on the core business of milking cows, the replacement heifers are contract-reared. Kilian has more cubicle spaces than cows so there is plenty of room and feed space.

One of the farm’s standout features is its exceptional grassland management.

Killian Brennan farms in Co Cavan.

With effective land drainage, close monitoring of soil fertility, and favourable use of clover.

The Lakelands nominee maximises the utilisation of grass. In fact, they have dedicated 20% of their farm to a Clover 150 trial, showcasing the immense potential of this approach.

Several open days have been organised to demonstrate how clover can revolutionise grassland management and further enhance productivity.

The Lakelands nominee, with its unwavering commitment to excellence, is undoubtedly flying the flag for dairy farming in Ireland.

Through their remarkable achievements, an enduring work ethic, and the utilisation of innovative practices, the Brennan family continues to inspire and outcompete many farmers in regions where conditions are comparatively easier.