MY name is Aaron Connolly and I graduated from CAFRE in 2014. I undertook the Level 3 Work Based Diploma after first completing the Level 2 Diploma in Agriculture at Greenmount campus.
Whilst studying at Greenmount, I completed numerous training disciplines, including becoming proficient in artificial insemination as well as the PA1 and PA2 sprayer courses.
Following graduation, I then returned home to the family farm, near Saintfield in County Down, to work alongside my father. We are kept busy year-round with 100 Holstein cows, as well as two broiler houses supplying Moy Park.
Dairy cows have been a familiar sight on our farm for many years. Whilst there is a steady flow of cows calving throughout the year, numbers peak in October and November with all replacements born and raised on the homestead.
Putting the skills I learnt at Greenmount campus into practice, all of the heifers on the farm are artificially inseminated using sexed semen. A selection of the top cows in the herd are also bred to sexed semen, helping the rate of genetic gain. The remaining animals are bred to beef, ensuring only the best animals pass their genetics into the herd of the future.
We also invested in our own baler and wrapper in recent years, enabling us to maximise grass production from the grazing platform and increase grass utilisation during the peak growing weeks.
Having fine-tuned the dairy enterprise and due to the lack of ground availability, we ruled out dairy expansion. In 2017, we introduced two broiler houses growing higher welfare chickens for Moy Park. The houses can hold up to 70,000 birds and after five years as new entrant poultry farmers we are extremely pleased with the poultry enterprise.
I continue to strengthen my links with CAFRE, and I have been a member of the Dairy Business Development Group (BDG) programme for over three years now. We meet as a group regularly to discuss different topics throughout the year. We can share ideas, ask questions and debate current issues with others. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of a BDG as there are always new ideas and different ways of doing things up for discussion.
Going forward, building farm sustainability and resilience to the family business is at the forefront of my plans. I hope to continue developing a viable business model between both the poultry and dairy enterprises. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the industry.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.