‘George Goes Dairy Farming’ series three continues with episode two. This innovative, farm-focused series is proudly brought to you by AgriLand Media and AgriNet.
The Co. Wicklow-based farmer, George Beattie, is in the ‘Rebel county’ to visit the farm of the Hynes family – Peter, Paula and their three children.
On the farm, the family is milking 180 pedigree cows, having increased from 50 in 2010.
George speaks to Peter and Paula about the use of AgriNet on the farm, their pathway into dairy farming and the role of the family on the farm.
The ongoing series of videos, produced by AgriLand Media with the support of AgriNet, has provided unique insights into the management practices adopted by milk producers across the entire gamut of dairy farming business models implemented in Ireland.
All have been widely recognised for their focus on the clear communication of new thinking within the dairy sector, and their role in providing possible learning opportunities for Irish dairy farmers.
The latest production is a further, invaluable reference point for anyone with an interest in modern milk production systems.
Start of the journey
Not coming from a farming background, Peter got the opportunity go farming at 36 years of age. There were 50 cows on the farm and Peter said he needed to figure out where his farming journey was going.
Peter said: “I joined a discussion group and went back to ag-college, which I was told would never pay.
“I had a lot to learn about a grass-based system. At the time we were doing 240 days at grass and 270kg of milk solids/cow and operating a calf-to-beef system.
“Looking back on the beef system it was a saving scheme really, I would have been better putting that money in the post office, not done any work, and still got it out at the end of the year.
“That fact that I was farming and studying made it a lot easier to get through it, I could put what I was learning into practice.
“I was also able to question a lot of what I was reading, seeing if it worked or not on farm.”
Commenting on changing the farm’s system, Peter said: “We very quickly moved to 300 days grazing and looked at our breeding programme.
“At the time we weren’t using any artificial insemination (AI); we had a 31-week calving spread. For a spring-calving herd, I think we were bordering on wanting to be autumn-calving as well.
“I remember having a chat with Mike Bateman and he told me just to shave the hell out of it and we did the following season.
“I like genetics and breeding, and I like getting that side of it right. A lot of people say the calving season is the start of your farming year, but in actual fact, it goes back to the previous April.
“April 2021, was the start of our production year for 2022, because if we can’t get them in-calf, they won’t be milking the following season.
“We have used some sexed semen and daughter proven bulls, but I really liked what I was seeing from the economic breeding index (EBI).
“I came into farming on the eve of genomics and the controversy that surrounded that. But at the same time, I liked the concept of where technology would take us from a breeding perspective.”
When Peter finished ag-college, the plan was to increase to 90 cows, but that quickly changed with quotas being removed.
Peter stated: “With quotas going, we saw a huge change to expand the herd. I laugh looking back to when I finished ag-college, my six-year business plan was to get to 90 cows.
“That was my holy grail and I had no intention of going any further. Then I got wind that the quotas were going and it was… get to 180 cows as quickly as possible.
“In 2015, if the cat had stood still for long enough I would have chanced milking her, because I needed numbers fast.”
Out of the pan into the fire
In 2014, Peter and Paula’s third daughter was born, with Paula choosing not to return to work but instead to go farming alongside Peter.
Peter said: “It was a huge challenge for her, she had never milked a cow until late 2014. We still have the first cow on the farm that Paula ever milked and the two of them have become great friends.
“My view of farming has changed from 2012 or 2013 where I was very business orientated, now I am trying to marry that business orientation into how can we run a family farm and keep that very nature that Irish farms are built on.”
The Hynes farm is very much a family operation with Peter, Paula and their three girls all helping.
Paula said: “I was never at home; I was working 120 hours a week, Peter practically reared the two girls on his own.
“Now that the family is farming, I am at home. We can have dinner together… do homework with them. All the girls have huge interest in the farm, we couldn’t do without them.
“The girls come into the milking parlour, which means as a family we get a huge amount of time together.”
Peter added: “This place doesn’t operate unless it is a family farm.”
The Hynes family use AgriNet on-farm, and when asked about what he sees as the biggest benefit, Peter said: “Having control over figures, it doesn’t matter what size your herd is.
“Having control over what is happening on the farm and being able to simplify it.
“I am the worst in the world with paperwork and my account, bank manager, vet and anyone else that has to deal with me will back that up.
“But I love being able to use my phone and having access to everything on my phone.
“Being able to record things quickly, whether it is scanning or drying off. It is being able to see that information in front of you very quickly and being able to deal with.”
Find out how much the app would cost you, based on your herd size, by clicking here.
Continuing Peter said: “For the Bord Bia audits there is nothing worse than having a big stack of paper when they call.
“The guys from Bord Bia can find the information so easily on the phone when they need it.”
For more ‘George goes dairy farming’
Catch up on all the episodes from series three here:
Catch up on all the episodes from series two here:
Catch up on all the episodes from series one here:
Additionally, for more information on Progressive Genetics, click here.