In this week’s dairy focusAgriland made the trip to the Garden county to meet with David Young on his dairy farm near Kiltegan.

David, alongside his wife, Cushla and their six sons, is currently milking 230 high economic breeding index (EBI) cows.

The herd has expanded from 60 cows in 2013, to the 230 cows currently being milked on the farm.

The focus on this dairy farm has been breeding a high EBI cow. Some New Zealand genetics have been used in the past.

Last year, the herd averaged 579kg of milk solids, which puts it in the top 1% of Glanbia suppliers.

The herd’s current average EBI is €187 putting it in the top 2% of herds, with milk accounting for €56, fertility for €91, and a maintenance figure of €17.

This year, the herd is on target to produce 595kg of milk solids and also sold two bulls into artificial insemination (AI).


David’s father moved the family from Cavan to Wicklow in 1989, where he established a dairy and beef farm.

David’s father took early retirement from farming in 2002, when David and his brother were both working as builders.

David Young

In 2010, David changed career path and took on a dairy farm manager job.

After a couple of years, he started to question why he was milking someone else’s cows when he could be milking his own.

David applied for the new entrant quota in 2012 and started milking on the farm in the spring of 2013.

Building work started on the farm in 2012 with the plan being to construct a milking parlour and a calving shed – while a cubicle shed was already existing on the farm.

“The advice at the time was to spend a year getting ready and buy bulling heifers rather than in-calf heifers,” David said.

“But I wouldn’t have an awful lot of patience and there was a lot of money going out and not much coming in.

“I thought if I could get into milk quicker I would have cashflow quicker, so against all advice I went out and bought in-calf heifers and rushed the building.

“Construction started on the milking parlour two weeks before Christmas 2012 and the first heifer was milked in the parlour on February 1, 2013.”

Numbers on the dairy farm have continued to increase since 2013, with breeding high EBI animals being the focus.

The target David set himself was to be milking 150 cows and achieving 460kg of milk solids by 2020.

Cows before concrete

David invested heavily in stock and grazing infrastructure rather than buildings – he started off in a second-hand parlour.

Since 2013 the entire farm has been reseeded, and paddocks and water systems installed too.

David recalled: “When I was buying heifers I was very selective. When getting into dairy, some people would focus on spending their money on the milking parlour and facilities, but I choose to spend my money on stock.

“When I was choosing bulls I was trying to pick the best genetics to improve the herd; the target was 460kg of milk solids, but by 2020 I had a high 579kg of milk solids.

“This year we are 10kg of milk solids ahead of last year.

“The average EBI of the herd is €187, with the average of the calves being €230 and the in-calf heifers are averaging €210.

“Because we were building numbers I never really had a big cull or selection of what was kept.

“But from here on, cow numbers have levelled off, and I will be more selective about the cows that I will be keeping. This should hopefully see the averages improve further.”

Continuing, David said: “The focus had been on the cows and grazing infrastructure, but I am now starting to invest in the yard, with a cubicle shed under construction and an automatic drafting area to be installed.

“It has been tough work since 2013, but the cows are now in a place I am happy with, so investment is needed in the yard.”


The main reason for this dairy focus was to discuss, with David, the banding under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Under the new CAP, dairy farms might see the introduction of banding with organic nitrogen (N) from cows based on production, rather than a standard figure.

BandsMilk yieldsExcretion rate
Band 1<4,500kg of milk80kg organic N/cow
Band 24,500-6,500kg of milk92kg organic N/cow
Band 3>6,500kg of milk106kg organic N/cow
Proposed bands and excretion rates
Source: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Commenting on this, David said: “Under the proposed banding I will be in band three, rather than two, which is where I thought I should be.

“I can understand what they are trying to do; if a cow is producing a certain level of yield, her intake would be more.

“But the intakes they are talking about, my cows are not doing. Daily average intake of my cows is 17kg of dry matter, with cows fed about 1t of meal/year.

“My average cow weight is about 560kg, with a herd average maintenance figure of €17.

“When I first heard about the banding I thought it was going to impact the farmers feeding high levels of concentrates, I did not think it would impact me.

“I actually felt sorry for the farmers that would be in that band, without realising I was one of them,” David added.

David continued: “The problem is that the herd is too efficient, with a lot of cows producing over their liveweight in milk solids.

“We have been hitting all the targets that are set out for a grass-based herd, so it shows that the cows are efficient converters of forage to milk.

“Farmers like myself who have followed the advice and have a herd of really good cows are going to be punished under the banding.

“I did not think it would affect me, until my advisor mentioned that I would be affected because we are over 6,500kg of milk.

“All the markers that were set down, I have achieved. I feel like now I am going to be punished for it. This measure in my opinion will punish some of the most productive herds.”


The focus on this dairy farm has been to breed cows to graze grass, with grass being key to the farm’s production system.

“The focus on the farm is grass, with the farm capable of growing a lot of grass,” David said.

“The spring and backend can be challenging and is the main reason why I feed about 1t of concentrates.

“We get a lot of rainfall here with cows usually not out to grass until early March. This year has been an exception – we would usually have the cows housed by now.

“During the summer we can grow a lot of grass on the farm, which helps us to achieve the production we are getting from the cows.

“Sometimes I think a more high-input system would have probably suited the farm more but I chose not to go that route.

“The advice was, and still is, that grass is king and I followed the advice to a tee, to have that highly efficient cow.”


Commenting on the new CAP and what he feels should have been done, David said: “I feel like the banding has gone under the radar, I know for myself I was busy and did not pay much attention to it.

“A lot of the land I farm is rented, so changes in payment will not affect me too much. It was not until my advisor mentioned it and I think there is going to be a lot of farmers in my position that thought this would not impact them.

“It is not that hard to get to 6,500kg of milk from a cow. They are saying only a small number of farmers are going to be impacted by it, but I would say there will be a lot of farmers impacted by it.

“My biggest worry is that when I went to the banks to construct the new shed it was based on milking a certain number of cows, that will not be possible under the banding.

“It has been a struggle since 2013 to get to where I have and just when you think you are going to put yourself in a good position, I am about to be regulated out of business.

“The new CAP feels to me like it is a done deal, and we were not given enough time to discuss issues and come up with compromises that suit everyone.

“I feel like there needs to be pause to allow consultation between farmers and the department around the banding,” David said.