A day in the life of breeding advisor Eoin Kennedy

Eoin joined the LIC Ireland team a year ago, and is loving every minute of his job. He says the quality of the bulls on offer puts him in the best position to help Irish grassland farmers improve the productivity and efficiency of their herds.

Currently Eoin is busy visiting as many farmers in his area as possible, to understand their system and how they operate on the ground. He says every customer is different but, as a great advocate of NZ genetics, he’s more than happy to promote something he believes in so strongly.

“I don’t think I could promote something that my heart wasn’t in, I’m just not that sort of person,” he says. “But I’m passionate about what NZ genetics offers, and it is something I would be doing anyway even if it wasn’t my job… just talking about the bulls and cows to everyone I’ve met.”

He’s extremely positive about the future of dairy in Ireland and says it’s clear there’re a lot of challenges and changes on the horizon. But he sees lots of opportunities for young farmers, and that sometimes ‘change is a good thing’.

“Some producers here are very worried about the environmental changes coming our way, but the cross bred cow will suit any system going forwards. We have a durable agricultural business that can withstand any change, we just need to stay ahead of the curve.”

As a farmer himself, Eoin sees the value in crossbred cows

Eoin farms himself, in partnership with his mother and father, Mary and Roger. Today he milks 160 cows at Callan in Co.Kilkenny, some 45 minutes from the office in Cahir. The farm was run by his parents for more than 40 years and used to rear beef as well as milk cows.

“I came back to the farm straight from University where I had been studying a dairy business degree for four years,” he explains. “We had two blocks of land a kilometre apart from one another. One was 18ha that grazed 50 cows, and the 42ha is where we used to rear beef, and cut silage.

“After a lot of discussion, we decided to build a new parlour on the 42ha – a greenfield site – and to look at a substantial increase in cow numbers. This ground was drier and better for grazing so while we had 90 cows in 2018 we’d increased to 130 by 2022 and now we have 165 milkers.

“It’s been a quick expansion, and it’s gone well, we’re further along than I thought we would be. My parents used to have a British Friesian type of cow but having spent time in New Zealand I could see the benefit of a cross bred cow, and while it took me a while to realise their value, I started to visit farms around the country and exploring what opportunities these cows would give me.

“In 2021 we sold all our heifer calves and bought-in 50 LIC heifers from a herd in Waterford that are due to calve down this year. In 2022 I did the same, and bought in another 40-plus heifers from the same herd.

“I’m certain they’re now the right cows to build a business from and that this stock will perform well for my farm.”

LIC Ireland breeding advisor Eoin Kennedy

The farm is 100% spring calving unit starting on February 5, and from that date Eoin tries to get the cows, once calved, out as soon as possible. 

“Sometimes it’s difficult as most of our land can be heavy.” However, he points out that last year, a year of drought, he still managed to grow between 13.5 and 14 tonnes/grass/ha and was the envy of his neighbours.

He describes the farm as being ‘flipped on its head’ with all the dairy cows now on the 42ha parcel which has a three-year-old 24-unit herringbone and cubicle building, with another 84 topless cubicles added in 2020. By November 2022 the farm had a total of 170 cubicles.

“Everything built here does allow for further expansion, when that’s the right decision,” he says. “I always keep in my mind that I may expand, and I want to be able to take any opportunity that may come along. But it needs to be the right one.”

In terms of labour he has one full time worker Alex, himself and a relief milker Ger, with his father still looking after the youngstock and his mother helping with the admin and accounts.

A love affair with New Zealand

His love affair with New Zealand began when he was lucky enough to spend a year there during his degree course.

“As a teenager I was always interested in dairying. I have a twin brother and four older sisters, but I was always the one more interested in the farm. I was lucky to have the opportunity to go – along with all my class – to NZ and I had wanted to see the grass-based systems there and the wonderful scenery.

“We all had a great craic, 22 of us travelling together, and I ended up on a 1200 cow farm in Canterbury, and loved every minute of it. I got a lot of responsibility from my boss, partly I think because we were short staffed. I learnt how to work as part of a team. On our days off we’d all get together and spend the day on the road.

“My trip to NZ made me realise the potential the farm here had. I approached my parents with my plans, got the green light, and started on the greenfield site. Everything was put in from scratch, the roadways, fencing, water – the whole infrastructure.”

What does Eoin do with his spare time?

“Since the age of 17 I have become very involved in Macra Na Feirme which gets involved in all kinds of sports and social events through the club structure across the country.

“My beloved club Callan Macra has been my escape from the farm and it’s helped me to develop a different skill set – public speaking, debating, holding different leadership roles and so on.”

He feels the farm is now in a good position ‘ticking over’ and when he got the job for LIC , his first job interview ever, he was delighted to be offered the job.

“I love it,” he says. “I’m really interested in grazing cows and genetics, and it’s quite special to be on farms where you can look at genetic data and see how LIC bulls can improve or are improving their dairy herds in terms of productivity and efficiency.”

Asked what bulls he thinks ‘really do the job’ he points to Sierra, who he has personally used a lot, and says that with 100,000 daughters on the ground in New Zealand he has really proved himself and is an all round bull. As a Jersey, he points to Riverview and Dexter, describing his offspring as ‘little tanks’.

“I’m busy travelling around and meeting as many LIC customers as I can, but if there is anyone else who would like me to drop by for a chat, please get in touch.

Either email me on ekennedy@liceurope.com or call me on 086 4107786.”

by Michelle Lamerton
International Marketing Coordinator
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