For this week’s Dairy Focus, Agriland made the trip to the Kingdom to meet with the Curtin family on their dairy farm just outside of Brosna.

The Greenlawn herd is operated by Gerard and his two sons, Gearoid and Darragh, with the assistance of Gerard’s wife Mairead.

The Co. Kerry dairy farmers operate an unusual system, with all animals offered for sale as second-lactation cows – or sometimes sooner.

Dairy farming has always been the main enterprise on the farm; the Greenlawn herd was established by Gerard’s father in 1969 when he purchased a heifer calf for £48.

Since then, there has been a focus on breeding top-quality pedigree dairy stock on the farm, with Gearoid and Darragh planning to continue this.

Darragh, Gerard and Gearoid Curtin

Gerard said that Darragh in particular has keen interest in the breeding of pedigree cattle, and that he selects most of the sires used on the farm.

“Darragh is like our own private breeding advisor,” Gerard said.

The milking herd’s size has remained stable, however the number of heifers kept has increased. The Curtins use sexed semen to increase the number of heifers born on the farm each year.

About 40 first-lactation cows, 70 bulling heifers, 70 heifer calves and a few select bulls are kept on the farm during the year.


The system operated on the farm is quite unique, but also quite simple. Gerard, Gearoid and Darragh all work off farm, with the 40 first-lactation cows milked over the summer months.

But, about 110 cows and heifers are calved down on the farm, with calving starting in late December and ending in mid-March.

A yearly sale is held by the Curtins where all the cows heading into their second lactation are sold, along with select first-lactation heifers, bulling heifers and heifer calves.

This means that each year, the Curtins milk a completely new herd of cows, consisting of nearly all first-time calvers.

The Curtins aim to breed high-quality stock that can then be sold to other farmers.

“We are trying to breed a cow that suits us, and the farmer that buys them,” said Gerard.

“There is no point in breeding a cow that farmers don’t want to buy. Our top price cow from last year produced 9,000kg of milk at 4% protein, in her second lactation.

“The second-highest cow from last year produced 12,287kg of milk and 813kg of milk solids. Her Siemers Bloom-Field sired daughter is for sale in this year’s sale.

“Attention to detail is very important for us, to ensure that we are producing high-quality stock,” he added.

“We also haven’t used antibiotics at drying off for 15 years – just sealer – and in 2022, we won a national cell count award. Our cell counts are currently 56,000cells/ml.”

Giving some insight into why this system is operated, Gearoid said: “No one does it, no one sells their best heifers and cows out of their herd each year.

“It’s a unique system, which works for us. We have plenty of repeat customers because they know we are selling quality stock.”


All the animals are all artificial insemination (AI) bred, with sexed semen used to obtain extra heifers. Sexed semen is used on 90% of the animals for the first service.

Gerard said: “Sexed semen has been quite successful for us. There are multiple factors that are needed to come together for it to work.

“But in general, sexed semen has worked quite well for us.”

Darragh picks a lot of sires used on the herd. Giving some insight into what he looks for in a bull, he said: “The number one thing is type, with kilos of milk solids and overall balance key areas also.

“I also look for bulls that have good strength and are not too extreme in size.

“Kilos of milk solids would be a benchmark for us when we are breeding and looking for bulls to use. We delivered 645kg of milk solids on our milking cows last year which were in their first lactation, and are now in our sale in a weeks’ time.

“A good balanced cow is the aim. We have used a fair bit of Mogul in the past. We find he gives us what we are looking for.”

Continuing, Darragh said: “We are consistently trying to improve the herd, so we pick bulls to improve weaknesses we see.

“Parfect [Siemers Rengd Parfect-ET] is a new bull we are excited to use. He’s just been released in America and is a big talking point.

“He suits what we are trying to achieve here and I think he is going to be special bull going forward.

“Similarly, Delta Lambda is an exciting bull we are using. Seeing the daughters he has produced worldwide, it is hard not to get excited about him.”

2022 offering

The Greenlawn sale in previous years was held at marts, but due to Covid-19 it has now moved online in conjunction with Ballyjamesduff Mart.

Gerard describes this move as a “resounding success”.

“Covid-19 forced us to move to an on-farm, online sale,” he said.

“But, there is a huge benefit for us and the buyers, with cows not leaving the farm until they are sold.

“Farmers that couldn’t make it to the sale can still buy, without having to leave their farm.

“There are biosecurity risks and issues with exporting animals if they go to the mart.

“It is also much better for the animal. They are milked straight after the sale and they are not holding milk for a long period.”

This year’s sale takes place on Saturday, March 12, and will see almost 80 lots on offer, with a mix of cows and heifers in milk, along with maiden heifers and heifer calves.

The cows and heifers on offer this year are sired by bulls such as: Applicable; D, Sol; Gregarious; Hurricane; Mogul; Montross; Pepper; Punch; and many more.

In total there are 11 VG two-year old heifers on offer, now calved and in their second lactation.

Two of these heifers scored at 87 points and six at 86 points; three of these scored VG88 on Mammary.

This year’s sale has three third-lactation cows, two of which are VG88 and one VG87. These heifers will be reclassified before the sale, with updated scores available on the day.

Future of the herd

Giving some insight into the future of the herd and what will be the focus of this dairy farm going forward, Gearoid said: “I like the system we have, I think it works well and I would like to continue with it.”

Commenting on what he would like to do in the future, Darragh said: “I like the system we have, but there are times that I want to keep cows and continue to breed on from them.

“I enjoy the pedigree breeding and seeing the improvements being made within the herd, but I wouldn’t mind keeping more cows on farm also.”

Dairy Focus

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