A fifth-generation dairy farmer whose farm is in the south Kilkenny hills has addressed Fermanagh Grassland Club on running an efficient holding embracing the challenges of reducing carbon emissions and sustainability.

Bryan Daniels, a dairy farmer from outside Kilmoganny, County Kilkenny, is a Nuffield Scholar, who focused on identifying the restrictions and solutions to incorporating clover on Irish grassland farms.

He is a graduate of Kildalton Agricultural College, and returned home to farm in 1999 where he converted the dairy and beef farm to a fully dairy enterprise.

Since then, Bryan has received several accolades in the past 20 years, including Teagasc Student of the Year, 2001; FBD Young Farmer of the Year, 2007; and Teagasc Overall and Sustainable Farming Grassland Farmer of the Year, 2019.

He also joined an Irish Grassland Association study tour to New Zealand.

The 156-hectare farm stocked with 272 traditional Friesian dairy cows is in the hills, rising from 780 feet to 1,000 feet. The stocking rate is 2.47LU/hectares.

Cows are dried off on December 10 and calving begins in February.

Bryan told the club members that in 2022, the cows had a milk yield of 5,422 litres per cow, sold at 4.35 per cent fat, and 3.71 protein with a Somatic Cell Count of 73.

From February 7, 2023, 96 per cent of the herd calved within six weeks. The concentrate fed in 2022 was 630kgs per cow.

The top 30 per cent of the herd is bred for replacement heifers. When deciding on breeding traits, Bryan said they look at the size of the cow, health, and kilos of milk solids.

He said grass drove the farm and he started grass measuring in 2003, and he had 44 measurements in 2022.

The paddocks are well laid out with two water troughs in each.

There is a strong focus on clover on this farm. Bryan and his wife, Gail, started using white clover in 2003, and in later years, the farm grew red clover on silage ground, and is increasing the acreage not getting any nitrogen fertiliser.

He said the establishment of clover was based on the right PH and good management.

In 2016, a 44-point rotary parlour was installed, reducing the time in the parlour to two and a half hours.

He had a number of people ask for jobs and because of the new parlour set up, he changed the workers’ hours to a 5:2 roster.

Bryan is skilled at carpentry and steelwork and can carry out repairs around the farm.

He said a farm like this one can grow good grass amounts while improving the environment.

He strives to use home-grown feed without palm kernal or soya. To enhance the sustainability on the farm, he uses only protected urea, clover and tests soil fertility.

Regarding the cows, he adopts a policy of easy care animals, with high welfare, and profitable.

As for farm labour, having a good work/life balance is also high on the agenda.

He adopts better ways to work in an attractive place to work, using part-time staff at weekends. Bryan tries to have all staff off the farm by 5.30pm each day.

Answering some questions from farmers, Bryan said he has found black and white cattle more tolerant to bloat on high-clover swards.

Weeds are not a problem, with no dockspray used since 2013, although thistles can sometimes be a problem.

The farm is targeting to be fully off nitrogen, although low potash can be an issue, so he splits 0:7:30 fertilisers between Spring and Autumn.