Happy family: Ciaran and Teresa O’Connell, Ardnacrusha, with Paudie, Amber, May and baby Una
A FATHER-of-four has gone from driving a milk lorry to producing it on a dairy farm.
Now milking 80 cows as a new entrant, Ciaran O’Connell farms with his wife Teresa in Ardnacrusha. They are hosting a dairy open day on Thursday, August 17 from 10.30am to 3pm.
Ciaran and his two brothers Colm and John grew up on the farm next door with their parents Joe and Geraldine. In 2012, the three brothers inherited the farm from their late uncle, who had previously been dairying but had semi-retired to drystock in the late 1990s.
“Colm and John were working away, so it made sense for me to lease their portions and go into dairying. I had been working long hours between contracting and driving a milk lorry and this was also an opportunity to work closer to home and the young family.
“I was spending two or three hours a day in the yard with the sucklers anyway, so I said I might as well be milking and getting the monthly cheque!” said Ciaran.
The facilities were not suitable for the 100 to 120 cow herd Ciaran planned to build and so construction work began on a new slatted tank, cubicle house and parlour in May 2014.
“That year was hard-going. I was still driving so was working away in the evenings and days off. But I couldn’t have done it without the help of my father Joe. I’d often pass on the road back home in the lorry, it could be near midnight but I’d see the lights of the digger in the yard and my father still working away,” said Ciaran.
Choosing the Easyfix Cubicles for the new slatted 53 cow house in 2014 was a “no-brainer”. He had seen enough cows stuck in cubicles in his uncle’s time milking.
“I had seen the Easyfix cubicles on other farms and knew instantly they were the answer. We have a few very large cows and the bit of flexibility in the cubicles means they are not going to get hurt stepping up into the cubicle bed. As well as that, they seem very sturdy and hard to break,” he said.
Given the comfort, space and hygiene advantages, it was then an easy decision for Ciaran to replace the 37 old steel cubicles in the existing slatted shed with Easyfix cubicles in 2016, rather than repairing them.
A new portal-frame shed was erected to house the parlour and dairy in late 2014. The design was well thought through, with a wide unobstructed entrance and exit to maximise efficiency of cow flow and the option to add four more units to the 14-unit Boumatic Gascoigne Melotte herringbone parlour. Second-hand manual pig feeders were installed in the parlour. All the dairy feed for the cows and nuts for the calves is supplied by Paul & Vincent.
Asked about plans for the future, Ciaran smiles, “Sure, you’d never be finished. The day you have all those jobs finished in farming is the day you’ll die!” There are plans to do more fencing ans reseeding, although 50 acres has been reseeded already.
There are plans to finish concreting around the yard this year, as well as the reseeding and drainage works. O’Connell Quarries, who are based locally, supplied all the concrete for the work completed to date.
Another local company, Liffey Mills supplies the fertiliser for grazing and silage on the 190 acre farm.
Representatives from Easyfix, Boumatic, Liffey Mills, Paul & Vincent and O’Connell Quarries will be available to discuss options for new dairy entrants at the open day on the O’Connell farm at Ballycar, Arndacrusha on Thursday, August 17 from 10.30am to 3pm.
Visit www.easyfix.com for more information.