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Successful Teagasc – Aurivo Focus Farm Walk in Kilconieron

28 June 2024
Type Media Article

By John McCabe, Teagasc Aurivo Joint Programme

David Gannon who farms in Kilconieron, Go Galway held a successful farm walk as part of the Teagasc – Aurivo Farm Profitability Programme where 55 attendees heard about his dairy farming story. David is the Aurivo Focus Farmer for the area and has 170 cows. One of the main topics of the joint programme is labour and on the day, David’s approach to running the farm was discussed in terms of employed help, contractors and also the practices he does or does not do.

Employed help - David came home to farm after a number of years as a mechanical engineer in Galway City where he had lots of interactions with people on a daily basis. David employs part time help and also relief milkers. On the day he highlighted how he loves having people around for company on the farm.

He said a lot of the people that he works with are neighbours with whom he has a flexible relationship with. The main way David has found help over the years is by being on the look-out at all times. In sports teams, at community events, etc. and in general by letting it be known that there is work available on his farm. Another way David finds help is through the people he already has employed. Students in particular talk to each other. So it is important that they have a good experience. It is equally important that if things are not working out that you end in a courteous manner as if things end poorly, it may be harder to find the next person.

Reducing physical strain - Tom Murphy who is David’s Teagasc Advisor said that many farmers he has worked with over the years have also worked with orthopaedic surgeon Ken Carr for shoulder surgeries and other issues. A great discussion followed about trying to reduce the physical toll on the body over a career in dairy farming. David never lifts milk out of the parlour or across the yard. He keeps a separate herd in the spring for cows that are not going into the tank. These cows are milked last and the pipe is taken out of the tank and connected to a bespoke pipe that David has made up which goes through the wall of the dairy and outside into an IBC which can be lifted with the loader down to the calf shed. (See picture.) David said a milk trolley wouldn’t work for him because the yard is stoney and uneven.

The parlour also had a few alterations made. David has recently put soft foam mats in the pit. They really reduce the strain on the body and lots of farmers commented on them after the meeting. The consensus was that since the mats went in they were far less fatigued after a milking than when they were standing on concrete and that it was money really well spent.

The contractors that David works with are a huge link in the chain. All slurry is spread by contractors. Some fertiliser in peak workload times is outsourced, bales, silage, AI and other contractors all play a key role on allowing David to focus on the profit end of the business.

Breeding – the breeding season was mentioned as another key driver of workload but also workload management. Calving starts around the 1st of February and 90% of the herd are calved before St. Patrick’s Day. This drives a lot of work for a few weeks but with this comes efficiency as no cow is milked on the Gannon’s farm over the Christmas period and January. They dry off every year. This can’t be underestimated.

He has also moved to a 10 week breeding period. No cow will be bulled after the 8th of July on the Gannon farm. His empty rate doubled from 6% to 12% the year he shortened the window but then returned to his normal figure of 6-7% which is excellent. He finds this a huge help. Very few calves arrive in April which means that by the middle of April, a day on the farm is much more simple. He goes on a short break with his wife Deirdre and their new-born daughter. He says this gives him a good chance to recharge the physical and mental batteries ahead of breeding again.

The Gannon farm in Kilconieron is a well-oiled machine when it comes to the time and effort of running a dairy farm and the crowd took a lot of information home. Our thanks to David and family for hosting the event.