It is very much a team effort on this Kilmurry farm, not far from Feenagh in west Limerick near the Cork border. Alex, Siobhan and Alex’s parents Michael and Mary Ita, have a spring-calving unit driven on grazed grass and a sustainable work-life balance in the heart of cow country.

Clover is under the spotlight, hedgerow management has changed, and efficient and productive cows are the focus in a business that has had its fair share of challenges.

If this Limerick dairy farm was a shop, it would have been burned down two or three times.

Brucellosis hit the farm as milk quotas were abolished in 1983. If that wasn’t bad enough, BSE hit the farm hard in 2001.

And, yet, the farm has bounced back. Each time, they laid the foundation blocks for recovery themselves, both literally and physically building themselves back up.

The 16-unit herringbone parlour is bright, spacious and airy.

The biggest positive change to the business in recent years has been Alex returning to farm full-time almost four years ago, leaving his career as a mechanic behind. This allowed an injection of youth into the business, a growth spurt and a step change in terms of using technology to drive decisions.

Grass measurement, heat detection and record-keeping are all on the phone and on demand. It hasn’t distracted from the basics – good cows, clean and tidy, and the back room team that are playing a blinder keeping everything up to speed.

Like a lot of dairy farms, a beef enterprise has been part of the business, but as cow numbers have grown, this has reduced in size.

However, some beef heifers are still finished under 20 months.

The McCarthys are milking 170 cows this year, farming a total of 104ha. Grass is measured weekly and in 2020, 880kg of meal was fed per cow and milk solids delivered was just shy of 530kg per cow.

The cows are milky, so Michael is hitting over 7,000l with an EBI of €170, with heifers reaching €200 EBI on average. They keep in the region of 40 replacements each year.

Similar to a lot of the competition entrants this year, all the tools to maximise soil fertility are in play. Over 90% of nitrogen is protected urea. A trailing shoe tanker was purchased to reduce emissions, clover seed has been spread on some paddocks, and is going into reseeds.

The somatic cell counts are excellent throughout the year and milk recording also plays a big role.