Getting to know the winner of the FBD Young Farmer of the Year Competition

Kevin Moran was crowned the FBD Young Farmer of the Year earlier this week, and since beginning his career in dairy farming his star has been on the rise.

Along with his young farmer title, Moran was also awarded the Teagasc Student of the Year (2013) and was a Nuffield Scholar in 2015.

Moran is also a focus farmer under the Aurivo Farm Profitability Programme.

However, the Mayo native’s route to dairying was not always straight forward, as he had been refused finance on nine separate occasions before his luck changed with his tenth business plan.

Route into farming and future plans

Originally from Clarmorriss in Co. Mayo, Moran currently farms in Cahirlestrane near Tuam in Co. Galway.

The youngest of 11 children, the home farm was never going to be a viable option so he had to look else where for the chance to go dairy farming.

In 2013, Moran rented 39 hectares off an uncle and since then the dairy operation has grown to 79 hectares with 220 cows milked under a spring-calving grass-based system.

In the coming years, Moran said that he plans to focus on improving efficiency within the farm gate, with a particular focus on grassland management and six-week calving rate.

Kevin Moran - the 2016 winner of the FBD Young Farmer of the Year Competition
Kevin Moran – the 2016 winner of the FBD Young Farmer of the Year Competition

Last year, he said, the farm grew 15.3t of grass per hectare and the six-week calving rate stood at 83%.

I set out two clear goals from day one: six week calving rate and tonnes utilised. So I will be focusing on them in the next two years.

“There is €21,000 more profit to be made by just utilising an extra tonne of grass per hectare without milking anymore cows,” he said.

Moran also said that by improving the farms six-week calving rate from 83% to 90% it could generate an extra €14,000 on the farm each year.

“I can gain the average industrial wage just by improving these two Key Performance Indicators,” he said.

2016 – a dose of reality for dairy farmers

Moran explained that a lower milk price has put a lot of pressure on the system, but he added that the farm is still on budget for 2016.

“I do think the situation would be a lot worse if we had another two-to-three years of high prices with quotas just gone before this slump hit us.

“It was a dose of reality for everyone and it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing,” he said.

To deal with the lower milk price, Moran said that he focused on cutting waste from his business.

I battened down the hatches, I nailed the cheque book to the wall and I forward bought certain products last year.

Moran explained that constant cash flow and profit monitoring is important for his business and in 2016 his breakeven milk price is 22c/L, down from 24c/L and 27c/L in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

“When I add on stock sales, extra fat and protein in the milk and single farm payment, thats topping it up by 12c/L

“That’s actually 34c/L it takes to run my farm, including my salary and full capital repayments,” he said.

Farm facts:
  • Milking 220 cows
  • Stocking rate (milking platform): 3.38 LU/ha
  • Grew 15.3t of grass/ha in 2015
  • Break even price (base price): 22c/L
  • Six week calving rate: 83%

And he explained that ongoing cash flow management is extremely important for his business.

“Ongoing cash-flow measurement, whether it is good or bad, is important. I do think it is going to be the making of a lot of young people.

“We are on the way up again.  We do have another couple of hard months ahead and cash flow is sluggish because it takes a while of good milk prices for it to recover, and for it to actually pass on to the farm gate.

But, It is very important that you don’t hurt the farm short term and jeopordise your four, five or six year goals just to beat milk price.

“The principles of best practice is still money well spent at 21c/L as what it is at 40c/L,” he said.

Focusing on concentrate input

The 2016 Young Farmer added that monitoring concentrate costs are important for the profitability of his business.

“For every 1c/L your increase your concentrate costs your overall costs increase by 1.6c/L,” he said.

In 2015, the average cow on the Galway native’s farm was offered 400kg of concentrate and so far this year cows have been given 356kg.

April was a very expensive month for me. I was feeding 6kg/cow which was completely against the principles of my system

“I had a herd of cows there that were after having calves, I was asking them to throw out 300-350kg of solids after just being put together and I was asking them to go back in calf.

“They had to be fed. I fed a lot of meal in April and went over budget on concentrates but we have had an excellent summer and have recovered that,” he said.

L-R: Brian Keegan, Thomas Duffy, Michael Kenny, Kevin Moran, Stephen Robb, Mattie John Kelly.
L-R: Brian Keegan, Thomas Duffy, Michael Kenny, Kevin Moran, Stephen Robb, Mattie John Kelly pictured with Macra President Sean Finan.

What winning means

Moran said that he always loved the art of milking cows and the way of life that farming provides.

“Seeing cows walking over the road on a nice sunny morning is just fantastic. I don’t ever see myself coming away from it,” he said.

“It’s a massive achievement for me. It has been a goal for a long time. It’s my own All-Ireland medal.

“This is a dream come.  I did my work placement with Timmy Quinn, a former winner, and when I saw Timmy winning I thought it would be absolutely fantastic if I could win.

“We have worked very hard the past few years and this is just a great payback and we will enjoy the year,” he said.