A farming family from Co. Tipperary has received Arrabawn’s ‘Supplier of the Year’ award, which is sponsored by AIB.

John Woods, his wife Anne and their son Pat, were recently presented with the accolade at the co-op’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh.

The family run a 76-cow herd on their dairy farm in Ballywilliam, Nenagh; and the Woods say that the secret to top-quality milk is about doing the simple things well all the time.

They farm 150ac of land in total; with approximately 80ac is set aside for dairying. In recent years, the herd has grown from 60 cows to 76. Any growth in numbers that follows will be “small and steady”, the family explained.

Commenting on the topic of expansion, John said: “The growth we are seeing across dairying at the moment is probably sustainable; but, people need to examine very closely what they are doing.

One thing I am going to tell you is this – if you want to make a living out of anything, you have to stay at it. You can’t chop and change and walk away from it a few years later.

“So, if farmers are increasing the size of their herds, or are getting into milk for the first time, they have to stay with the investment or they will never see it back.”

‘Farmers need to thread carefully’

Having graduated from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Degree in Agriculture, Pat is currently working full-time on the farm.

The 22-year-old farmer believes that the rise in dairying is understandable; but that farmers need to thread carefully.

Farmers want more cows because they see a better lifestyle out of it; but, it’s not that simple.

“There’s a line of thinking that they can just get in someone to work for them; but I’m not sure they are thinking about what it is going to cost to hire that man and keep those extra numbers and that extra feed.

“There will be farmers who will be able to manage it and sustain it, but there will be others who won’t be able to. You need to know what you can handle. Can you manage your time, the people you have working for you? There’s a lot in it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ann Woods keeps a particularly close eye on the environment.

“One of the big reasons to be restrained when it comes to growth is sustainability. You have to think of the environment, you have to think of the cows and the animal husbandry,” she added.

Doing the simple things right

Reflecting on the award, the farming family says that there’s no magic ingredient to having top-quality milk.

Continuing, John said: “Just do the simple things right and do them all the time.

It doesn’t matter how good things are or how bad things are in terms of milk price, you just have to look after the cows. If you look after the cows, the cows will look after you.

Equally, Pat explained that the family hasn’t done anything new to receive the award; but, he underlined, that planning is essential.

“We are following the same routine for every milking and we are also watching our animal husbandry – taking care of our cows, making sure they get what they need – especially this year with the fodder crisis.

“We didn’t skimp on anything the cows needed. We brought in forage and extra meal. We gave them what they needed,” he said.

Concluding, John stated that he is unsure of what the full impact of the recent fodder crisis will be.

In my opinion, we won’t know the full result of the winter just gone until the next winter is over. It could have a knock-on effect if we don’t get a good October to mid-November.

“If you don’t get that, you could be facing the same problem next winter. We have to get extras silage this year as stocks, otherwise, won’t be replenished. Reserves are gone,” he said.