FARM SMART: Mixing off-farm commitments with an expanding herd in Co. Limerick

Farming in Croom, Co. Limerick, Louise Crowley milks a herd of 150 Friesian cows – under a spring-calving system – in partnership with her father, John.

Both Louise and John work full-time on the farm, while additional help is hired in during the busy times of the year such as the calving period.

However, the book doesn’t stop there with Louise. When things calm down on the home farm, Louise works part-time as a relief milker with FRS.

Outside of work, the Limerick native is heavily involved in Macra na Feirme, at both club and county level. In addition, Louise scooped the Queen of the Land award in 2018.

If that’s not enough, Louise is also the secretary of the local and county vintage club. However, these commitments do not interrupt her farming schedule; she takes it all in her stride.

“It can be very tough, but I’m very lucky that I do have dad here full-time around the farm; that he can cover for me when I am gone away.

“I try limit most things to night time, just so I can get jobs done at home; but when I’m gone at night, that too cuts into my time for getting paperwork done, so I need to be able to get that done during the day quickly, without having to sit down and spend time doing it,” Louise explained.

With a view to making her and her father’s life easier, an improved water system was installed on the farm to coincide with an additional 70 cubicles that were constructed last year.

Moreover, an out-farm is earmarked for reseeding this year and infrastructure will also be improved on this block.

However, while this investment has paved the way for the expanding herd – which is set to reach 170 cows next year – Louise has turned to technology to help with the day-to-day running of the farm.

“My use in apps on the farm has increased and Herdwatch would be the main app; it’s used every day on the farm, several times a day.

“I use it for everything from registering a calf and ordering tags; I use it an awful lot for weighing my calves when they’re born, to see if they reach target weights.

“Even for putting animals into groups. When you have your batches of animals, it’s very easy for batched dosing; all your remedies are recorded – everything you have in your medicine cabinet. It’s just so much easier to keep track of it now.”

After initially hearing about Herdwatch at the National Ploughing Championships and becoming more familiar with the app through FRS, Louise is now an avid user.

At the moment, calving is in full swing on the Crowley’s farm and the Herdwatch app is used for registering the calves. Previously, calves were registered online on a PC; however, she outlined that this new system is a lot more simple.

She said: “What I find is when I’m tagging a calf, I scan the tag and I have the calf registered by the time the second tag goes on the calf and I have my card for the calf within next two days.”

The Crowleys sell the majority of their calves – with the exception of replacements – direct off the farm. Again, Herdwatch simplifies this process.

“It’s really changed how we work animal movements on the farm. When a buyer comes in they can pick their calves as I do up the movement form and, if they’re on Herdwatch or online, I can give them the movement cert codes straight away and they have it accepted even before the calves leave the yard.

“I also find the feature of being able to text on the movement number from the movement cert onto the buyer very handy; it makes the process much quicker.”

The use of this technology has also changed the game when it comes Bord Bia inspections.

“If I buy something in the vets, I can scan the code on the product straight away and I know by the time I’m home it’s on my system.

“I use it for keeping track of what I have dosed. If you are in the pit and tube a cow while milking, it’s just as easy to get the phone out and pick the cow number and straight away it tells you how long she’s out of the tank and it notifies you when she’s eligible to go back in as well, so it’s fierce handy you don’t even have to work out the dates for yourself.”

To date, Louise has had no issue with the Herdwatch app and highlighted that it is very user friendly and that the team at the Tipperary-based company are very helpful when it comes to explaining new features on the app.