Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Monitor Farms

Teagasc/KerryAgribusiness Monitor Farms 2016-2019


Adrian Keane Glanballyma Kilflynn Tralee Co Kerry 

Adrian Keane Monitor Farmer



“When I joined the monitor group, my main focus was breeding to increase milk solids production and grass measurement to increase grass utilisation”.


Improving herd genetics from the get go

  • “Capitalising on high EBI stock was a key business investment”
  • “Progress can be accelerated, particularly where herd EBI is low”
  • “Sourcing genuine high EBI stock which generate a high return on investment”
  • “Breeding improvements were made by purchasing 20 high EBI heifers”
  • “In their 2nd year, 19 of these heifers calved down again. This helped cull older cows”

Animal performance

  • Approximately 50% of the herd are first and second lactation
  • Herd EBI went from €57 in 2016 to €118 in 2019. This was accelerated by the purchase of heifers
  • Milking platform increased allowing cow numbers increase from 102 in 2016 to 124 in 2019
  • Milk solids per hectare on the milk platform went from 1009 kg in 2016 to 1246 kg in 2019

 Production and value of milk sold

  • Milk recording data showed a variation in performance in homebred versus high EBI purchased stock.
  • Milk solids in first lactation was 474 kg and second lactation cows was 481 kg from purchased stock
  • Milk solids in first lactation was 397 kg’s and second lactation cows was 459 kg from homebred stock
  • Value of milk sold in first lactation was €2163 and second lactation cows was €2195 from purchased stock
  • Value of milk sold in first lactation was €1806 and second lactation cows was €2085 from homebred stock

 Dermot O’Connor Lisbane Shanagolden Co Limerick 

 Dermot O'Connor Monitor Farm

Dermot o Connor is milking 197 cows in Shanagolden Co Limerick. Dermot’s objective was “to monitor costs, improve overall financial management and manage my time more effectively”.

Dermot’s experience

  • “Provided an opportunity to gain new knowledge, insights into technologies”
  • Dermot’s targets for “a dairy system where the herd calves compactly to grass
  • This allows “the farm achieve its full grass production potential
  • Dermot chooses for a work life balance as “work can be blocked into different time specific tasks
  • To get tasks complete Dermot has “a defined finishing time each evening helps to focus the mind

 Animal performance

  • 197 cows milked on 60 hectares milking block
  • Stocking rate increased from 2.93 LU/ ha to 3.28 LU/ ha
  • Herd EBI increased from €105 in 2016 to €155 in 2019
  • Milk solids sold off the milking platform increased from 1288 kg/ ha in 2016 to 1648 kg/ ha in 2019

 Soil fertility focus

  • Initially, 40% of the farm was optimum for soil fertility and now 60% is optimum
  • To carry the high stocking rate, Dermot invested in phosphorus, potassium fertiliser and lime
  • Annual reseeding is complete each year, selecting high Pasture Profit Index grass varieties
  • Dermot achieves 290 days at grass, with a focus on spring grazing which increases grass grown
  • Grass growth is recorded each week on PastureBase Ireland, this facilitates grassland decision making 

Diarmuid Cremin Cottage Gneeveguilla Rathmore Co Kerry 

 Diarmuid Cremin Monitor Farmer

“Increase milk solids per cow by increasing grass production and utilisation and further enhancing the financial resilience of my business”

Grassland management

  • 68 cows milked on a milking block area of 23 ha or a stocking rate of 3 LU/ ha
  • “Early turnout to set up the farm for the year was a key learning for me”
  • Grew 14.6 tonnes DM/ ha in 2019 – achieved from investing in lime and P & K build-up fertilisers
  • Additional spur roadways helped improve grass utilisation in spring and autumn

 Financial management on the farm

  • The key focus in the programme was to achieve a sustainable living from a 68 cow herd
  • “I learned that cash flow is as important as profit”
  • “Participation in the programme allowed me to significantly improve my financial management”
  • Diarmuid budgets to retain 50% of receipts and reviews all spending according to this metric
  • Participating in Kerry Agribusiness Forward Price Schemes provides income stability for Diarmuid

 Herd performance

  • Herd EBI went from €120 in 2016 to €176 in 2019
  • Diarmuid has a big emphasis on fertility and milk solids production from an easily maintained cow
  • Milk solids sold on the milking platform increased from 1165 kg per ha in 2016 to 1414 kg per ha in 2019
  • Fertility drives milk solids production through a 94% six week calving rate
  • The herd is mature; cows culled in 2018 averaged 5.7 lactations per cow 

John Molyneaux Hill Crest House Farrihy Dromcollogher Co Limerick

John Molyneaux Monitor Farmer


John milks 97 cows on his farm located outside Broadford Co. Limerick. He operated a stocking rate of 2.70 LU/ ha on the milking platform, grew 14.4 tonne DM/ ha and cows were supplemented with 515 kg of concentrate in 2019.

 “My priority was to improve the soil fertility on the farm. P and K levels weren’t where I wanted them to be”

 Farm productivity

  • Sold 1335 kg of milk solids per hectare from the milking block in 2019, an increase of 300 kg milk solids per hectare in 2016
  • Six week calving rate was 89%
  • Herd EBI increased from €105 in 2016 to €162 in 2019                                                           

Operating costs 

  • John increased his investment in soil fertility from €252 per ha in 2014 to €544 in 2018
  • Average feed cost from 2016-2019 were 3.84 c/l and fertiliser cost were 3.16 c/l for the same period

 Using low emission slurry technology (LESS) and Protected Urea

  • Slurry is applied on the farm using low emission technology by a local contractor
  • “We are very happy with the grass growth response and the fact that leaf contamination is reduced”
  • In 2019, over 50% of N fertiliser applied on the farm was in the form of protected-urea
  • “the 2019 season was our first year using protected-urea and we were very happy with the outcome”
  • “No negative impact on our three week grass growth cycle and our annual production”
  • The nitrogen use efficiency figure was 30%, which is well on target for grass based systems

 “We now have the farm at index 3 for P and K and our pH is at 6.3 for the whole farm”

Mark Clune Drominanov Feakle Co Clare

Mark Clune Monitor Farmer


Mark milks 84 cows in Feakle Co Clare. Mark’s objective was to “focus on improving milk solids production from grazed grass with a mature herd”.

Herd performance

  • In 2019 milk solids production was 469 kg per cow.
  • Milk solids increased from 1291 kg/ ha to 1439 kg/ ha
  • Herd EBI has increased from €98 in 2016 to €147 in 2019
  • Mark focused on the fertility sub-index to improve herd maturity, while cow numbers remained static
  • Cows were bred to have a high genetic potential for butterfat and protein percentages
  • In 2019, two thirds of the cows were in their third lactation or more

 Mark’s views on herd maturity

  • The real impact of focusing on herd fertility is in the extra lifetime production of each cow
  • Herd maturity drives increased milk solids production
  • The herd requires less replacement stock
  • Requiring less replacements “has a positive knock on environmental impact”
  • For Mark less replacements means “a reduction in the farms carbon footprint”

 Grassland Management

  • 84 cows are milked on 28 ha milking block, at a stocking rate of 3 LU/ ha
  • Reducing concentrate input and increasing grass utilisation was key goal on the farm
  • Tonnes of grass DM grown increased from 9.1 tonnes per ha in 2017 to 15.1 tonnes per ha in 2019
  • This was achieved by improving overall soil fertility; P, K and lime

 Mark’s message

Being involved in the joint programme “inspires you to make improvements” 

 Michael McMahon Kilcarroll Kilrush Co Clare 

 Michael McMahon Monitor Farmer

Michael McMahon milked 86 cows in 2019 on a milking platform of 2.42 LU per ha. Michael had a positive experience of lime application on heavy soil types. Michael feels that keeping an application rate to 1.5 tonnes/acre on the heavier type paddocks negates any risk of softening the surface layer.

 Current performance since joining the programme:

  • “Milk solids sold have increased by 445 kg per ha on the milking block”
  • Cow numbers increased over four years, while the size of the milking block remained static
  • The increase in milk solids sold was achieved by improved herd genetics and soil fertility
  • A key learning for Michael was grassland management and “managing surplus to deficit availability”
  • “Silage and slurry work is contracted out which gives extra time to manage cows and grass”

Cow Performance:

  • Herd EBI increased from €86 in 2016 to €132 in 2019
  • Milk solids sold off the milking platform increased from 739 kg per ha in 2016 to 1184 kg per ha in 2019
  • Six week calving interval went from 70% in 2016 to 84% in 2019
  • Herd is remaining very mature with 22 replacement heifers required to maintain a 86 cow herd

Addressing soil fertility and improving grazing infrastructure

  • Spur roads with multiple access points were installed
  • All parts of paddocks are no more than 70 meters from a hard road surface
  • Extra grass is utilised during the shoulders of the year with the use of spur roads
  • Michael uses the NMP coloured maps to target fields with additional lime or fertilisers required
  • Lime spread had faster regrowth’s, increased palatability and an efficient use of fertilisers

 “Manage your farm by doing the simple things right and the rest will fall into place”

 Padraig Condron Dullas Croom Kilmallock Co Limerick 

Padraig Condron Monitor Farmer

Padraig Condron milked 168 cows in in 2019. His focus when participating in the programme was “getting to grips with labour efficiency on my farm”.

 Improvements made on the farm

  • Padraig focused on grassland management and labour efficiency for the duration of the programme
  • “Improvement in grazing efficiency has been significant - measuring takes all the guess work out”
  • Grass measuring as “a great tool to keep quality grass in front of the cows”
  • “Soil testing and spreading the right fertiliser to match soil deficiencies was a win win”
  • “Improving labour efficiency on the farm has been crucial”

Labour efficiency on the farm

  • Measuring and benchmarking labour efficiency was a key objective
  • Padraig took part in a labour study in conjunction with Teagasc Moorepark
  • A total of 2043 work hours were recorded which equated to 12.1 hours per cow (Jan-June) in 2019
  • Total contractor hours were 146 hours for Padraig versus 205 hours for the top 25% in the study
  • Milking and calf care represented 38% and 26%, respectively, of Padraig’s total labour hours from January to June 2019.

 Improvements made in herd genetics

  • Compact calving and improved herd genetics increased milk solids sold
  • Herd EBI improved from €79 in 2016 to €115 in 2019
  • Milk solids sold from the milking platform increased from 824 kg/ ha to 1011 kg /ha
  • 6 week calving rate increased from 63% in 2016 to 84% in 2019
  • Cow numbers increased the stocking rate; 2.14 LU/ ha in 2016 to 2.32 LU/ ha in 2019

 “Measuring labour efficiency allows us compare our system to similar scale operations particularly for the busy spring period. Planning the right balance of labour for your circumstances including use of contractors is key to making the business more sustainable”.

Paudie  O'Brien Ballinvarrig Firies Killarney Co Kerry

 Paudie O'Brien Monitor Farmer

“My main priority was to improve soil fertility, increase grass production and improve milk solids per cow”

Paudie’s experience

“Participation gave me confidence to go farming full-time, push stocking rate and expand cow numbers”.

  • “I gained confidence to go after spring grazing to get more grass into cows- better than any ration I could feed” grass was better than any ration I could feed.
  • “I started doing grass covers as part of my routine. I now do over 40 grass covers a year.”
  • “Grass grown went from 10.8 t DM/ha of grass in 2016 to 15.7 t DM/ha in 2019. More grass was utilised with help of more spur roads”.


  • Herd EBI increased from in 2016 €73 to  €133 in 2019
  • Herd increased from 52 cows in 2016 to 76 cows in 2019
  • Better breeding was the foundation for greater milk solids production; an additional 358 kg milk solids per hectare was supplied from 2016 to 2019
  • Produced 1120 kg milk solids per ha in 2019  with 738 kg of  concentrates per cow
  • Compact calving maximised days in milk; 6 week calving rate of 95% and culling of late calvers from the herd

Soil fertility

  • Focused on getting lime out at every opportunity so that pH was corrected in 90% of paddocks by 2019
  • Increased use of P fertiliser to replace off-take –some heavy clay paddocks were slow to increase index
  • More focussed use of slurry & potassium fertiliser  to replace K off-takes from silage
  • Better soil fertility allowed me focus on better nitrogen use efficiency in the mid-season
  • Farm now responds much quicker when growing conditions are improving

Philip Ruttle Fort View Rathkeale Co Limerick

 Philip Ruttle Monitor Farmer


Philip Ruttle milks 80 cows outside Rathkeale Co Limerick. Philip’s objective while participating in the programme was “identify areas of investment which gave a high rate of return, improved labour efficiency and ensured my farm business was sustainable”.

 Learnings from the programme

  • “The programme has taught me the importance of financial management”
  • “To focus investments on areas with a high rate of return”
  • These included areas in “grassland and grazing infrastructure”
  • Philip learned “the potential that my farm has to be a progressive and sustainable family business”
  • “Meeting like-minded farmers has shown me the strengths and weaknesses of my farm”

 Farm Production from 2016-2019

  • 80 cows are milked on a milking platform of 37.2 ha or 2.15 LU/ ha, up from 1.80 LU/ ha in 2016
  • Six week calving rate improved from 67% in 2016 to 86% in 2019
  • Grass walks completed regularly with 12.5 tonnes/ ha grown in 2019
  • Herd EBI increased from €99 in 2016 to €143 in 2019

Farm Buildings and monitoring cash flow

  • Over the course of the programme Philip built a 54 cubicle house with additional slurry storage
  • The cubicle accommodation cost €1200 per cow after the grant was received and is financed over 10 years
  • Additional calf pens were constructed, which are required to coincide with the compact calving
  • Philip places a lot of emphasis on monitoring cash flow as a developing farm is cash demanding
  • E-profit monitor is completed annually used to compare financial performance  against other farms

Seamus Laffan  Knockanea Boher Co Limerick

 Seamus Laffan Monitor Farmer

Seamus is milking 100 cows in Boher Co Limerick. His objective while participating in the programme was “adoption of key technologies that improve farm profitability”. When Seamus first joined the programme he milked 70 cows.

 Seamus’s experience from the programme

  • “I have learned a lot from my interactions with the other monitor farmers across the region”
  • Participating in discussing groups “has helped me on my own farm development programme.
  • “I started grass measuring when I joined the programme. I am now completing over 40 grass walks each year”
  • Grass walks completed each week are recorded on Pasturebase Ireland
  • Grass measuring “helps me to ensure there is quality grass in front of my cows at all times” 

Farm performance

  • Seamus milks 100 cows on a milking platform of 34 hectares with a stocking rate of 2.8 LU/ ha
  • Replacement heifers are reared on outside blocks along with silage harvested
  • Herd EBI has improved from €60 in 2016 to €121 in 2019
  • Milk solids sold on the milking platform increased from 1116 kg/ ha in 2016 to 1308 kg/ ha
  • Limiting the breeding season to 12 weeks reduced the late calvers and increased milk solids sold

 Focus on grazing infrastructure

  • The number of grazing’s per paddocks has steadily increased over the duration of the programme
  • This was achieved by installing extra spur roadways used during difficult grazing conditions
  • Annual soil testing offers Seamus the opportunity to target fields sub optimal in soil fertility
  • 140 tonne of lime was spread in 2019 along with additional P and K on paddocks requiring attention
  • Extra roadways and addressing soil fertility has increased the days grazing on the milking platform

 Photo Cows under Monitor Farms 2016-2019

For further information on above click on: 

Heavy Soils Programme Monitor Farms

John Paul Leahy, Upper Athea, Co Limerick
John O'Sullivan, Ballygree,Castleisland,Co Kerry
Donal & Michael Keane, Droumerin, Listowel, Co Kerry
Danny Bermingham, Doonbeg, Co Clare
Sean O'Riordan, Knockenaught, Kiskeam, Co Cork