The Bandon nominee in this year’s competition is the Dullea, farm overlooking the beautiful Bandon valley in Keelnameela, Enniskeane, Co Cork. Michael Dullea with his wife Martina and their youngest son Ciaran, are transforming this farm into a sustainable and thriving enterprise.

The farm started to take shape in 2018 when Michael and Martina inherited the responsibility of tending for its 40 cows.

Both Martina and Michael come from farming backgrounds, carrying with them a wealth of knowledge and a deep-rooted love for the land.

Michael’s previous career as a builder has given him great experience in the construction of farm buildings and the current facilities are undergoing a major revamp with a new parlour planned, new calf house completed, new cubicle house almost complete and roadways progressing.

The herd has expanded to 95 cows with a huge emphasis on good genetics. Having achieved their current excellent results in the old facilities, the sky will be the limit when the new infrastructure fully comes on stream.

This is truly a team operation with Michael, Martina and Ciaran, who has recently graduated from Darrara Agricultural College in Clonakilty working together, demonstrating the power of collaboration and shared values.

For late entrants to full-time dairy farming, Michael and Martina are demonstrating a remarkable enthusiasm and passion to improve the farm’s productivity and environmental impact.

It is not all work and they are active members of the local GAA club and Michael has been its secretary for the past 11 years and is also a member of the tidy towns committee.

Ciaran, who is a member of the Bandon Young Farmers Discussion Group, is eager to combine tradition with the latest trends in the industry. His enthusiasm for embracing cutting-edge technologies and sustainable farming methods has been a catalyst for the farm’s rapid growth.

Silage, slurry spreading reseeding, and lime spreading (40t spread in 2022) are all outsourced to contractors allowing the team focus their efforts on tending to the cows, replacement stock and calves.

Sixty per cent of nitrogen used is in the form of protected urea and all slurry is spread using LESS. They successfully reared six sets of twins in the 2023 season in a purpose-built calf shed with automatic calf feeding. They place a lot of value on milk recording data, judicious use of the California Mastitis Test and they undertake antibiotic sensitivity testing for suspect cows in Carbery.

Forty per cent of the herd received sealants only at drying off with their criteria being cows that never had an SCC reading over 100,000, keeping in mind the herd average SCC was less than 90 in 2022.

The farm also produces top-quality milk with a TBC average of 5.

Manual cleaning of the milking machine is carried out. Firstly, a warm post-milking rinse is run through the plant followed by nine litres per unit of hot water ( 80oC) using Biosan circodine) chlorine-free detergent.

The plant is then rinsed with 14 litres/ unit of cold water and then a final rinse containing Peracetic acid (30ml in 35 litres). The plant is descaled twice weekly using Aval Platinium. Avalksan CF is used for cleaning the bulk milk tank.

The Dullea family understands the importance of preserving the delicate balance between farming practices and the environment.

By meticulously maintaining the local flora and fauna on their picturesque land, they will ensure the ecological equilibrium is maintained.

One hectare of mature trees are set aside for wildlife. They actively manage their waste, recycle whenever possible, and embrace energy-efficient processes.

Additionally, the Dulleas are proud supporters of responsible water management techniques, ensuring optimal water usage throughout their daily operations.