Lee Strand is in the fresh milk business so quality and traceability are key for the business and the people consuming its products on a daily basis in the Kerry and north Cork region.
Farmers like the O’Brien family represent everything that is good about milking cows 365 days a year. It takes a certain passion, a commitment to deliver, a strong work ethic and in most cases a real family farm where everyone plays a part.
This is definitely the case for this business on the edge of Tralee, where Eric and his wife Tina, farm together with their son Austin. They share the workload to allow them deliver almost 30,000l of fresh milk every month of the year from their holding of 54ha farmed, but just 16ha available for grazing at Doon, Tralee.
Eric and Tina’s three daughters also helped out on the farm as they went through secondary school and college, but all three are now finished college and working full-time.
Austin is currently in college studying agricultural science in MTU, and the intention once college is completed is to work with his parents on the home farm.
In 2021, 70 cows were milked and this has risen to 77 cows milking in 2022. Almost 440,000l of milk or 6,000l per cow (450kg MS) were delivered from this farm in 2021.
Fresh cut grass from an outfarm often has to supplement grazed grass as the grazing platform is tight and overlooks the town of Tralee so additional land adjoining the farm is competitively sought after. A contractor drops the fresh cut grass every second day into the feed face from July to November.
To meet the fresh milk requirements for Lee Strand, breeding starts in December with cows calving from the end of September. Peak supply months are still May and June, but calving some of the cows in September means over 30,000 litres per month leave the farm every month of the year.
What’s very interesting about this farm is that it had a difficult time with managing somatic cell count in the past, but, between investment in the new parlour and upskilling on how to manage it, they are now firmly in control of SCC. Cell count is consistently under 100,000 for 2021 and 2022. Even from the lowest point of milk quality it’s possible to reach the top.