Cork dairy farmer Ian Kingston has had a busy few weeks on and off the farm after winning the 2022 Carbery Milk Quality and Sustainability Awards.
An, who farms with his parents Dick and Kathleen and his wife Maria, was commended by the jury for his standard of facilities, commitment to hygiene and quality and his use of sustainable farming practices.
“I probably don’t meet all the sustainability criteria, but I’m trying my best and I think the judges liked that,” he says.
“I started using proprietary urea as soon as it became available and I use a trailing shoe for more precise spreading of manure.
“I wouldn’t spread any other manure now – I think the benefits are enormous.”
Ian, who milks 181 crossbred cows on a 200ac milking platform, has sought to significantly reduce his reliance on using artificial nitrogen and has seeded 20 percent of the farm with clover.
He also tends his hedges and plants new ones when needed.
“Farmers work with nature every day and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t try to do their best,” he says.
“I think most new ideas are embraced (by farmers) and they will always try new ideas if they trust them.
“It’s about being realistic and only farming and taking on what we can handle and what the environment and your country can handle.”
Ian and his family are doing their utmost to keep their farm “as clean and sterile as possible.”
“Our hygiene standards are high, we strive to do our best. I am very proud of my ties to Drinagh and Carbery.
“Carbery sends our product from one of the most peripheral parts of Ireland to over 50 countries as a food product and ingredient – I’m delighted to be a part of it.
“I am very proud to have won the award. I have a huge surprise. Many very good farmers have won the award in the past and I’m not saying I’m a good farmer, but I’m honored and privileged to put my name next to theirs.”
Ian grew up on Dunmanway Holdings which overlooks the Bandon Valley and was bought by his grandfather over 100 years ago.
“The land is 500 to 800 feet above sea level and my parents started cultivating it in the 1970s. Part of the land was workable and part was hill country.
“I took over in the late ’90s – it was a gradual transition and my parents are still very involved.
“We have continued to improve the land and expand the farm by buying and leasing land locally. We also bought more milk quotas in the early 2000s. Since then we have continued to expand.”
Since becoming one of the first Monitor farmers (a joint Carbery and Teagasc farmer support program) in 1997, Ian has participated in fertility trials and other trials at Moore Park.
“We started crossing in 2004,” he says. “I had an interest in high European Index (EBI) breeding stock and was also involved in breeding trials with Teagasc, so I knew crossbreeding was a good way to go.
“I’m very interested in having productive, healthy and fertile cows that produce high milk solids – that interests me more than the yield a cow can produce.
“However, health and fertility take longer to build than volume, so it’s a longer journey, but worth it in my opinion.
“It’s a grass-based spring calving system. Many of the calves are sold for export and some are sold at the Bandon market.”
As well as winning the award, Ian has been busy housing the first of his stock for the winter.
“We are in the process of accommodating all of the young and dry stock,” he says. “We are in the process of drying some cows and we have about a week of grazing season left.
“20 percent of the herd is dry at the moment and by December 10 it will be completely dry. Then we will calve again from January 25th.
“I feel like it’s part of my lifestyle now – I want the break and the animals deserve the break.
“We’re using this time to catch up on a lot of maintenance on the farm and I’m using it to spend time with family, which is really important.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/dairy/dairy-farm-profiles/why-this-top-dairy-farmer-is-more-interested-in-efficient-healthy-fertile-cows-producing-high-milk-solids-than-yield-42160049.html Why this top dairy farmer is more interested in “efficient, healthy, fertile, high-DMS cows” than yield