In 1995, when Frank Coffey took over the family farm near Farranfore in Co Kerry they were milking 35 cows and expansion was not on the radar. Since then, Frank has had the opportunity to lease adjoining land and there are now over 66ha in the milking platform. The most recent block of land to be leased has just been reseeded and the herd of 109 cows were grazing this when the judges visited in early July.
Frank’s aim is to milk 112 cows next year and to stock the rest of the farm with youngstock as the contract rearing agreement has now ceased.
It hasn’t been all plain sailing for the Coffey farm, with the herd wiped out with BSE in 2002 and the herd they subsequently purchased had poor fertility.
Frank started crossbreeding in 2009 and today almost all the cows have some level of Jersey present.
Performance is excellent with the cows delivering 522kg MS/cow from 730kg of meal in 2021. The empty rate is low with just 8% empty after 10.5 weeks of breeding.
Frank has invested heavily in reseeding over the years and sees a great benefit from it. He walks the farm twice a week and will skip over paddocks that are gone too strong.
There are 3km of watercourses on the farm, so Frank is particularly aware of the impact of water quality and the environment. He has stopped using CAN fertiliser and only uses protected urea when straight nitrogen is being spread. Low emission slurry spreading is carried out and he has included clover in all reseeding mixtures.
He has recently purchased automated heat and health detection collars for the cows and heifers, which he says has been a major labour saving tool, allowing Frank more time off. He installed somatic cell count detectors in the milking parlour which helps to identify a cow with elevated SCC before she becomes a problem.
Son Gearoid carried out a project as part of his Leaving Certificate agricultural science course on the efficacy of giving these high SCC cows an antibiotic free bolus. Gearoid subsequently won a national award for this project.
Frank says he hasn’t used a milking cow tube on the cows for two years and SCC is currently 150,000. Frank is helped out on the farm by wife Siobhan and children Gearoid, Clodagh, Lauren and Darragh.