I first visited the Heery dairy farm near Castlepollard in Co Westmeath nearly 15 years ago and I think it’s fair to say it has changed very little in that time.
Back then, a new dairy and milking parlour had been installed. The farm was as efficient then as it is today. The significant improvement has probably come in the form of something farm visitors can’t readily see – soil nutrient management.
The soil fertility status is now exceptional and over 90% of the grassland is perfect on pH, over 80% perfect on phosphorus and over 70% perfect on potassium. There are very few soil tests results that can match those numbers.
The soil fertility status is now exceptional and over 90% of the grassland is perfect on pH
The farm is soil sampled every two years and is stocked at two cows per hectare on the 53ha grazing block with a total 60ha farmed. In total, 660kg of meal was fed per cow in 2021.
The challenge for Gerard, similar to a lot of other farmers, will be to try and get clover in the swards to allow him reduce bag fertiliser.
The aim for this farm is to keep it very simple and utilise the grassland block as much as possible. The calving interval is 369 days, the six-week rate is 73% and all replacements are AI bred.
Gerard and Geraldine are focused on what works for them. Both are very involved in local athletics and they both want the time to run, train and help the 140 members of the local athletics club compete in races.
The co-op performance report shows the herd delivering 484kg of milk solids per cow with a weighted average fat percentage of 4.48% and protein of 3.71%. In total for 2021, there were on average 86 cows milking from February to December.
The challenge for Gerard, similar to a lot of other farmers, will be to try and get clover in the swards to allow him reduce bag fertiliser
Gerard puts the easy cleaning of equipment down to a water softener installed over 20 years ago due to extremely hard water in the area. He reckons it’s key to the low number of descale washes required.
Gerard is the third generation farming beside Mullaghmeen forest. His father started sending milk to Oldcastle in 1957.
Gerard was one of six siblings and started farming in his own right in 1996, before taking over the farm in 2001, when his dad became president of Athletics Ireland.