Quality feed and animal health are the key ingredients of O’Kelly’s Feed Mills and Piggery’s winning formula, according to Con O’Kelly junior.
The O’Kelly’s pig business has been a permanent fixture on the Borris, County Carlow landscape for over a century. Today, Con O’Kelly junior is maintaining and building on a proud family tradition, running O’Kelly’s Feed Mills and Piggery.
“My grandfather Patrick O’Kelly bought the farm in 1915, 95 acres for £450!” Con explained when asked to trace the business’s roots. “I’ve been at pigs all my life. When growing up we had 60 cows and 40 sows. In 1986 I took over the running of the pig side of the farm with 40 sows from my father, Con O’Kelly senior.”
Con paid substantially more than his grandfather when he purchased a second farm at Inagh, Roscrea, Co Tipperary in 1988 – £70,000 to be exact.
“I bought the pig farm which consisted of 15 acres, 70 sows that were producing weaners and a dwelling house. Initially, the reason I bought it was to destock the home farm and restock from there to get rid of any disease in both units. I developed the farm in Tipperary from 300 sows to 500 at the same time in Borris, we went from 40 sows to 200 to 300.”
Con continued: “I started home milling in 1986 on the Carlow unit. In 2006, I decided to change things around and moved all the sows on to the one site in Tipperary. I built on new accommodation in Roscrea. Now we have a finishing unit in Borris while the sows are all on one unit producing weaners in Tipperary.”
Con operates a farrow to finish system and the 1000 sows are Landrance and Large White breeds. He has been supplying Queallys for the last two years having supplied Rosderra, Kepak and McCarrens in the past.
Galway native Michael Crowe oversees the smooth running of the Roscrea farm on behalf of Con.
“Michael started with us as an apprentice in Borris in 1984 and he has given us loyal service down through the years. We have three other pig men working in Roscrea along with Michael while John Molloy and Larry Furlong have worked for 57 and 30 years respectively with us here in Borris. We also employ a truck driver and transport all of our feed in and out of the mill.
There are turbulent times for the pig sector as everyone involved at the coalface is very well aware. With rising costs and low prices, the frustration at farm level is building and many pig farmers are enduring a financial crisis.
Irish farmers, like Con, are proud to provide consumers with food produced in an environmentally sustainable way, to the highest quality, safety and animal welfare standards, and with the best traceability in the world.
However primary producers, as the key providers of food, are not getting fair play in the food supply chain.
Con is the Carlow representative on the IFA’s Pig Committee and he shares the concerns of his fellow farmers.
Securing a fair return for farmers from the marketplace is one of the IFA’s key priorities.
“Unfortunately, times are tough as the pig price is poor and price of feed expensive. Hopefully things will improve next year,” he said.
An in-depth knowledge of pig nutrition has enabled Con to provide high performance feeds and this has resulted in excellent sow productivity. His feeds are designed to meet the needs of pigs and the quality of is his feeds is one of the main reasons why Con has been able to keep his head above water in these difficult times.
“The secrets of our success and the reasons we have been able to stay in business are the health of our pigs and the quality of our home-made feed. From start to finish, all pigs up along the way, are fed with our own feed. Health and feed are the two main things we have going in our favour.”
Despite the varying challenges that must be negotiated on a regular basis, pig farming is a labour of love for Con and he takes great pride in what he does.
“I do enjoy it and I like home milling and making good feed and good ration,” he concluded.
O’Kelly’s Feed Mills and Piggery
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 1, February/March 2019