It’s not easy to mix family, employees, friends and partners into a high performing farm at scale. Sometimes, it is wrongly assumed that large-scale means rich farmers wondering where to invest next.
However, large dairy farms often reveal a number of direct dependents (sons, daughters, employees), higher risk and a communication plan that even Facebook hasn’t invented yet.
The O’Sullivan enterprise is one such example. It’s a family business, but it wouldn’t be where it is today without the help of long-time farm manager, David McGrath.
Each member of the O’Sullivan family would say the same.
He knows the cows, back breeding and individual performance every bit as good as any of the O’Sullivans and cares for the cows as if they were his own. He is there when calving, breeding and feeding are in full swing during the cold winter months. It is very much a team effort on this dairy farm.
It took a few years in Butte, Montana in the US for John Sr’s grandfather to realise that Ireland was the place to buy land. After 17 years in the copper mines, he returned to buy the farm adjoining Lisduff. In 1943, he purchased the home farm at Lisduff.
In 1953, his son moved there and started milking eight Shorthorn cows. John Sr subsequently took up the mantle and currently, John Jr and Victor, are involved on the day-to-day running of the farm.
Today, the farm milks 500 cows, farming 385ac owned and 330ac rented. Sexed semen has been used for years and in 2021, 341 heifer calves were born on the farm.
All maiden heifers and 60% of the cows get sexed semen. John Sr reckons conception rate is improving with each year.
John Jr and Victor are the fourth generation farming at Lisduff. Victor milks the 130 cows most of the time on a second unit, about six miles from the home farm. Everyone pulls their weight. During the summer, additional help comes in to let everyone get holidays.
Adapting to new technology isn’t a challenge. It’s been five years since selective dry cow therapy became routine and now almost 90% of the herd gets no routine dry cow therapy.
Add that to their excellent milk quality results and you are building new levels into sustainability.
Steeped in Holsteins, talk of breeders clubs, IHFA, ICBF and Dairygold, are never far from conversation.
The winter herd calves in mid-August, while the spring herd starts in early January and ends in April. Cows, calves and breeding is what keeps the wheels turning in Lisduff and with performance like this, they will be turning for a while more.