Maximising Farming Efficiencies and Sustainability: Top Tips from Tim Crowley
Creating a more efficient farm requires some long-term thinking and determination. But making some changes in the name of efficiency can have a very real impact on your farm’s profitability, energy efficiency and greenhouse emissions.
One young farmer blazing the trail in this area is Tim Crowley. Tim owns a dairy farm in Co. Cork and was awarded the Grass10 Young Grassland Farmer of the Year in 2017. This accolade recognises farmers who are achieving high levels of grass utilisation in a sustainable manner. He’s passionate about sustainable grassland management and decided to put the farm forward for the prize. Although he never expected he would scoop the top prize, the judges were blown away by the farm’s grazing infrastructure. We caught up with Tim to glean some practical tips on farming efficiency and to find out how he became interested in the subject.
Exploring Pastures New
Tim’s interest in grassland management was piqued in 2008 when he visited New Zealand as part of his college work experience. “I went to New Zealand on work placement and was working on a farm with a Roscommon man. He was a super guy to be in grassland production with,” he recalls. “That experience taught me everything I needed to know. I was clear that system was the one for us and I knew I wanted to implement it when I got home.”
Planting the Seed
Fully aware of how Ireland’s world class grazing offered a competitive advantage, Tim saw that implementing sustainable grassland management could positively impact the family farm. For him it was a no-brainer. “It improves the quality of the product, but it’s also about improving your carbon footprint and trying to produce the milk in an environmentally friendly way,” he explains. “It’s about creating something that is sustainable going forward and can be implemented for years to come without huge changes having to take place.”
The efficiencies he made have positively impacted the farm’s growth. “We are steadily increasing numbers, hoping to bring the herd to the 180 – 200 mark,” he says. “We have a young herd so now we’re trying to get better production out of each cow.”
Tips for Success
Making changes to your business can be a daunting task but Tim advises to put a farm plan in place and stick to it. “The first thing to do is to try and envisage where you will be in five years’ time,” he notes. “Then the best place to start is grassland measuring. Grassland measuring is one of the most important efficiencies to take. Without this you can’t do your budgeting or allocations, and you don’t know what sort of grass supplies you have or what sort of growth potential you have,” he explains. “It is fundamental. It needs to be done on a weekly basis to get the best out of it. The second most important efficiency is getting your cows into the correct paddock that has adequate grass supplies, and that they clean it out correctly. Your grazing infrastructure has a big role to play here. We have done some investment on our grazing infrastructure and its paying off”.
Having a strong relationship with your bank is also crucially important if you’re expanding your business. “It’s fundamental you have the backing of your bank when you’re increasing your business,” he notes. “That works both ways, to get that backing and respect from the bank you have to be very honest and upfront, and go in with a good story and a decent business plan in place in order to sell your story and vision. I myself felt very supported by AIB. I got their full backing right from the get go. This kind of support is very reassuring when you’re going through expansion phases.”
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