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Growing Organics Farm Walk - Bill George

30 April 2024
Type Booklet

Bill George is farming Coolanowle Organic Farm in Arles, Co. Laois. This farm began its conversion to organic farming in 2001 by Bill's father in-law Jimmy Mulhall and has full organic status since 2003. Bill is leasing the farm on a long-term lease since 2016 and the main enterprise on the farm of 118 ha’s is dairying with a mix of tillage crops which are used for growing feed for the dairy herd.

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The Dairy Enterprise

The dairy enterprise consists of 150 high EBI cows with 40% calving in the autumn and 60% calving in the spring. Bill uses sexed semen AI to breed replacement heifers for the herd and also uses a Hereford bull along with more beef type AI for the non-replacement animals. These animals are kept on the farm and fed whole milk for 13 weeks and they are then sold to his brother in-law who brings them to slaughter for direct sales at farmers markets and on-line sales.

The milk is supplied to The Village Dairy, Killeshin, Co. Laois. They are a local processor who are bottling milk for retail and supply Gino’s Gelato for Gelato Ice cream. The farm also supplies The Little Milk Company who make a range of organic cheeses.

The farm is run as a grass based system, aiming to graze from February to November each year and the stocking rate on the grazing platform is running at 2.5 LU’s/ha with the overall stocking rate on the farm at 1.7 LU’s/ha.

The Tillage Enterprise

The tillage enterprise is made up of barley & pea combination crops which are grown for arable silage or brought to harvest for grain. All of this is used for winter feeding along with red and white clover silage. Over the last 5 years the volume of feed bought in has reduced significantly due to growing more of his own feed and working with other local organic farmers in a share- farming agreement. Bill buys approximately 10% organic concentrate feed and 40% from other organic farmers and he is producing 50% of the feed requirement on his own farm. He is aiming to grow more protein on the farm and is sowing a mixed pea/bean crop in 2024.

The tillage enterprise works well with his red clover silage rotation. He normally gets 4-5 seasons from the red clover silage and then rotates it around the farm with grass/white clover leys or a Barley/Pea crop. He has recently introduced multi-species grasses to the farm and hopes these new re-seeds will help combat the impact of reduced grass growth during the frequent prolonged dry spells that the farm is experiencing in recent years.