Chris Cahill struck luck the day the Land Mobility Service contacted him to say there was a farm partnership opportunity available on Tony McCormack’s 270ac dairy farm in Delvin, Co Westmeath.

Chris always had a ‘grá’ for agriculture and grew up farming with his uncles but, because neither of his parents had inherited a farm, Chris had to think outside the box when it came to getting involved in a farm of his own.

After studying dairy business in UCD, completing a masters and subsequently working for Lakeland Dairies for over five years, the Cavan man couldn’t shift the urge to get into dairying. Obviously, land is a major prerequisite for milking cows so this is where the Land Mobility Service came to his aid.

Chris said that his love of farming came particularly from his uncle on his mother’s side who milked 50 cows and, as a child, he spent as much time there as he could.

Farm setup

Tony McCormack was the answer to all of Chris’s problems. He had a sizeable farm with the capacity for expansion and he needed someone to help do it with him, which also allowed him to stay working off-farm.

Chris and Tony are now milking 205 high-EBI Holstein-cross and Kiwi-cross cows and have almost doubled numbers since the partnership began 16 months ago. By next year, they hope to be milking 240 cows.

At this stage, the cows have calved and breeding is well under way. Chris has synchronised 60% of his heifers and 30% of the cows have also been synchronised to breed replacements with sexed semen.

After artificially inseminating for three weeks, Chris uses beef straws on any repeats and then mops up with two Hereford bulls and an Angus bull. Chris is on target to have 270 bred this year.

Chris runs the day-to-day show on the farm, as Tony works full-time away from the farm.

It’s a setup akin to a 50-50 share milking partnership in New Zealand and it was there that Chris received a lot of his inspiration and ideas when on work experience in college.

Tony and Chris hope to be milking 240 cows by next year.

Tony is still very much involved though and gives a hand at the weekends or when they’re carrying out tasks such as testing.

“I rather the idea of a partnership versus a lease.

“I like to be involved on the farm; a lease wouldn’t be for me. It’s nice to still have an involvement on the farm but not have to kill yourself getting up too early in the morning either,” Tony said.


“When I first met Chris and we were considering the partnership, he drew up a 10-year plan for the farm and I agreed with everything he suggested. You need youth to bring new ideas into a farm, I think, and that’s why the partnership is going so well.

“We are in communication every day. I think it’s very important that we do get on and that I give him a bit of flexibility. I have to let him off because my ideas could be a bit antiquated at this stage,” Tony said.

Since the start of the partnership, Chris has reseeded 30% of the milking platform and aims to reseed another 25% by the end of this year.

A lot of infrastructural work has taken place since the duo came on board together.

They have put in a new 20-unit DeLaval parlour, a new collecting yard and extended the cubicle shed to fit another 80 cows and also added another 40 cubicles to an old beef shed.

The financials

Having spent a year in New Zealand, Chris was aware of how share milking worked, he now just needed to bring it to fruition on an Irish farm.

“It’s a simple enough operation. Tony owns the machinery, land and infrastructure and I own the cows and we’d both have our own repayments in that respect. Any costs of milk production on the farm are shared costs then.

“We get a lot of work contracted and don’t do any slurry spreading, reseeding or silage or anything like that. These are all shared costs too. Labour, however, is my cost,” Chris added.

All the cows have calved and breeding is well under way.

Workers on the farm include Chris along with another full-time labourer Jonathan. Jonathan’s father Packie and his partner Liz also help out on the farm during busy periods.

Tony works for Westmeath Community Development as a development officer.

I always worked off the farm all my life and it just became too much hard work doing both so that’s why I contacted the Land Mobility Service to see if they could match me up with someone

“My background is the same as Chris’s, I did ag science in UCD. When I started working, I was looking after low-income farmers. There was a programme that existed years ago. I’m a development officer now and I look after a lot of schemes for the unemployed.

“I always worked off the farm all my life and it just became too much hard work doing both so that’s why I contacted the Land Mobility Service to see if they could match me up with someone. I was milking about 120 cows and there was potential in the grazing platform to increase the cows and we were hoping to double numbers. I knew I couldn’t do that and keep my job going because of the lack of farm labour, so that’s why I went with the Land Mobility Service. And to be honest now it’s really working great,” he said.

With another eight and a half years left in this partnership, both parties are happy with how things are going and seem keen to continue, depending on each of their circumstances, go for another 10 years when it’s over.

“The day I contacted Austin Finn from the Land Mobility Service was the best thing I ever did. I simply gave him my details and he put me on the register.

“I was on the register for four or five years before I was in the position to take on an opportunity and I was still very young. A couple of opportunities came up in that time but didn’t work out but I’m very lucky to have found Tony and his farm,” Chris said.

What is the Land Mobility Service?

  • The Land Mobility Service is an initiative of Macra with financial backing from FBD Trust, and supported by industry stakeholders, including the Department of Agriculture and the Irish Farmers Journal.
  • It connects people who want to farm but have no land, with farmers and families who are contemplating expansion, changing enterprise, or stepping back.
  • The service has facilitated almost 1,000 arrangements across 75,000ac and almost 2,000 farm entities.