38 herds from across the country participated in the IHFA National Herds Competition 2018.
Herds were visited within one week by judge, Mark Logan, Clandeboye estate, Northern Ireland, beginning at the end of May which fortunately coincided with an upturn in weather conditions and grass growth.
Herds were entered by their clubs on the basis of performance at club level the previous year.
Visiting each herd was a big undertaking for the judge, travelling the length and breadth of the country from Malin Head to Ballyheigue and from Clonakilty to Hook Head right up to Clogherhead in Louth.
Production and conformation (Inspection) criteria of each participating herd was used in computing results, bringing excellence in herd efficiency and management to the fore, and there were three sections: 80 cows, 80 cows and over and Spring calving (95% calving in Spring months).
This year’s National Open Day was hosted by the Collins family, Ardcath, Co. Meath, on July 4 and top prize in the 80 cows and over category went to Rickey Barrett, Laurelelm Herd of Cork who has developed an enviable winning habit down through the years.
“We were delighted,” enthused Rickey when reflecting on his show success with Irish Tractor & Agri magazine. “We participate in a lot of shows, both locally and nationally, and it’s a hobby that we are very passionate about. The judging for the National Herds Competition takes in type and production as well as grass management and management of the farm. You have to have the cows and place looking well so it’s nice recognition to get.
“I have to compliment the IHFA on organising the day every year. There was a huge turnout again this year and it’s great to meet so many like-minded people. You learn new things every day you got out.”
Fast forward one month to August and Rickey was in the winners enclosure again, this time at the 27th Tullamore National Livestock Show. Crowds in excess of 60,000 people thronged the Butterfield Estate showgrounds, situated a short distance west of the Co. Offaly provincial town.
Laurelelm Fever Brilliant was crowned Senior Holstein Friesian Champion, making it a memorable day for the Barrett family as they also won Champion Jersey.
It was a fantastic double achievement for Rickey with John Snr and Rickey Jnr on hand to carry home the silverware! Laurelelm Fever Brilliant also won best udder.
The Barrett name is synonymous with show success in the Holstein category down through the years and Rickey, who is married to Susan, is carrying on a proud family tradition that stretches back to 1972.
“My parents (John and Sheila) were involved in pedigree cows all their lives and there were six of us in the family growing up, all involved in milking 120 cows on the family farm at Togher. My brother John still milks 180 cows at Togher as well. We also ran a beef and suckler farm in Adamstown. I want to pass that love of showing on to my kids, Rickey, John and Julie.
“In 2000 we established a new dairy unit and replaced suckler cows with dairy cows from the home farm and started milking around 80 cows. Now we have 300 cows milking in Adamstown.
“While it’s very rewarding to gain success at shows my end goal is how much money I can make out of farming. My aim to sell 9,000 litres of milk but’s that’s not always possible. Grass is, obviously, very important to us. We graze grass nine months of the year and buffer feed as well. We operate a milking platform 50% in Autumn, 50% in Spring.”
Every day is a learning day as far as Rickey is concerned…
“I’m passionate about what I do and I’m always looking to learn and very important to the whole thing is the work that the IHFA, YMA, ICBF, Teagasc, IFA and AI companies do. I’m a firm believer in getting hold of as much information and support as you can get and I can’t overstate the importance of that.”
The affable Barrett is upbeat about the current state of dairy farming and milk production in Ireland but adds that rural isolation is casting a dark shadow over the agricultural sector.
“Hand on heart I think the industry is in a good place at the minute. I do think people have to accept that you don’t have to have 300 cows to make a super living. We shouldn’t get caught up in cow numbers, you can make a very good living out of 70/80 cows so it’s all about getting the balance right. Make the most of the hand you are dealt.
“We’ve experienced extremes in both ends of the weather this year but I would be concerned that there are people out there who are very isolated and afraid to ask for help. That’s a big issue. You look at the amount of farm accidents at the minute and in a lot of cases it is people out working on their own who are getting killed. We need to urgently looked at that as an industry,” he concluded.
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 6 No 7, November 2018