Currently milking 660 crossbreed Jersey cows, Corkamore Dairies is one of the premier dairy farm operations throughout all of Co Sligo. Irish Tractor Agri & Plant spoke with third generation dairy farmer Padraig Og Mulligan to learn all about this thriving enterprise situated in the Yeats County.
These are busy times at Corkamore Dairies and the plan for Padraig Og Mulligan in conjunction with his parents Padraig and Mary is to try and keep things that way right through to next year.
Currently operating with three staff, the Mulligans run an excellent dairy farm business which sees them supplying to Aurivo (Connacht Gold) exclusively.
It’s a dairy enterprise with an excellent reputation which has managed to achieve so much down through the decades.
Padraig senior has worked on the farm since he was 14 when it was a 5.6ha mixed farm with three cows, 14 ewes, two sows and a horse for ploughing and carting of hay. It was essentially self-sufficient. When he took over the farm in 1972 it had grown to 16ha and ran 55 cows. One year later he and wife Mary married and returned from their honeymoon to a disaster. The herd had gone down with brucellosis.
Padraig Og and Padraig Snr. oversee the operation as directors of the company Corkamore Dairies. “My mother Mary (company secretary) is the backbone and looks after all the paperwork and the finances which is a vital part of the business. Mary also runs a Bed and Breakfast and a tour of the farm is available to guests if they so wish,” says the former, who is married to Anita with three children, Kyle, Callum and Aveen. Anita works outside the home as well as being a full time mother as Padraig Og is so involved in the farm. “Everyone has their own duties to take care of and it’s a real partnership. Dad is farming all his life and he’s still as active around the farm as he ever was. It’s a team business.”
Irish Tractor Agri & Plant touched base with Padraig Og Mulligan to find out more about ins and outs of the business, how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted it and some of the recent investments it made for its future.
“At the moment, we’re milking 660 cows and we have 112 hectares on the grazing platform and then we’re farming still around about 800 acres,” he outlined.
In January 2020 we bought a 73-acre farm with accommodation for 400 animals and out offices. We were also fortunate to purchase six acres adjoining the grazing platform.
“We would have bought a farm and not been leasing as much as we were. The new quota is new land and we also put up a new milking parlour as well in 2018.”
The Dairy Master 70-unit rotary milking parlour replaced the existing 20-unit one and they’re now into their fourth season with it in Corkamore, having spent close on €1m to bring it in.
Business is good, according to Padraig Og, whose two sons Kyle and Callum are also part of the business, but it’s certainly not without its obstacles as well.
“The price of milk has only recently improved and I suppose we are getting around 55 cents a litre plus,” he said.
However it is relative, our costs have risen substantially. Fertiliser is probably adding on four to five cents a litre and meal costs have increased 2-3 cents a litre. Unfortunately, costs have gone through the roof. Diesel has actually doubled.
“In January 2021, we were buying fertiliser for about €385 a tonne and this year it has increased to €1,300 a tonne and it’s back to about €1,000 a tonne at the moment.
“That’s a drastic change in price. It’s crazy.”
There is a good side to the story though.
Animal prices have increased, and it’s something which is very much welcome from Corkamore Dairies’ point of view.
“The price of animals, like Cull cows are making €1,000 plus easily. Some of them are €1,200 to €1,300 and we’d be fairly selective in breeding now,” said Padraig Og. “We make informed choices in relation to our breeding. We have invested time and energy into the selection process.
“We would only be breeding 150 EBI plus cows to get the best heifers on the ground. The use of EBI helps in reducing our carbon footprint and working towards our sustainability goals. Furthermore we are using protected urea and all slurry on the farm is spread with trail and show. We invested in this system 4 years ago when we purchased a 2600 High spec tanker. We are also incorporating clover in our swarts. We have planted 40 acres of red clover in silage swarts assisted by government funding.”
Now into its fourth generation, the family-run venture came into unprecedented times two years ago.
The Covid-19 pandemic, and the government lockdowns which followed in order to try and fight spread of the virus, hit businesses nationwide.
Padraig Og is glad to report that the day to day running of Corkamore Dairies was not severely impacted in comparison to other business.
“Covid from a farmer’s point of view wasn’t too bad,” he said. “I suppose, to be straight about it, we were still able to get on with our day-to-day thing and I suppose the restriction on the attendance at marts were the biggest problem.
“But I would say, if anything, Covid actually seemed to benefit the marts in that the prices it seemed to return slightly better when people were buying online. People have more time and disposable income available.”
Indeed, producing four million litres of milk annually takes all hands-on deck.
Corkamore Dairies is an operation that provides full and part-time employment, with additional help coming from Padraig Og’s brothers-in-law and, over the years, all five of his sisters have been actively involved in the farm. “We are very fortunate that both my sons Kyle and Callum have such a keen interest in the farm. They are a fantastic support to my father and I.”
As well as this, it’s a host farm for Teagasc which sees the Mulligan family having students from all part of Ireland and overseas on their farm for three or four months of the year.
Needless to say, Corkamore Dairies is an extremely busy operation. According to Padraig Og, they would like to continue to “drive on” in the same manner in which they have done in the past and also invest in the future of the business wisely.
“Our ambition is to improve our profitability on our farm and to increase the grazing platform if the opportunity arises. If land becomes available outside the grazing platform we will look favourably at it.
“With every peak, there’s gonna be a drop,” he concluded.
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 10 No 5, September/October 2022