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Young Dairy Farmer Focuses on Sustainability and Efficiency

Katie Shanahan

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| May 9, 2024

young dairy farmer

Nicole Keohane’s roots in farming run deep, with her passion for agriculture nurtured on her grandparents’ farm in Innishannon, Co. Cork. From the tender age of seven, when she received her first pair of wellies and overalls, to the invaluable teachings of her grandmother Anne, who has stewarded the farm since the late 1970s, Nicole’s upbringing was steeped in the time-honoured traditions of dairy farming.

Today, at 26, Nicole is a dynamic force in the dairy industry, seamlessly blending tradition with innovation to ensure the efficiency and sustainability of her family’s dairy enterprise. Managing approximately 95 Holstein Friesian cows across 40 hectares of land, Nicole is committed to reducing antibiotic usage and exploring alternative methods to promote animal health.

Her educational journey, which began at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), equipped her with practical skills and a Green Cert, solidifying her qualification as a farmer. Nicole’s academic prowess was further demonstrated through her completion of a Research Masters, focusing on a non-antibiotic approach to improving udder health in Irish dairy cows.

Young Dairy farmer

Her achievements, including winning the Dairy Master Student Award and speaking at prestigious events like the EPA’s annual climate conference, underscore her dedication to driving positive change within the industry. Additionally, she is the West Cork Farming Award winner for May which are hosted by the Southern Star.

Dairy Calves

Nicole’s innovative spirit shines through in her calf enrichment initiatives, which garnered attention on social media platforms. By introducing activities like hanging space hoppers in the calf shed, Nicole not only promotes animal welfare but also engages with her followers, fostering a sense of community and shared learning. The calves are kept for up to 6 weeks to ensure a healthy, hardy calf leaves the farm. They are dehorned by a vet ensuring guidelines are followed regarding sedation and pain relief further promoting animal welfare. 

Nicole’s Vision: Leading Dairy Farming Toward Sustainability and Innovation

Nicole envisions a future for dairy farming defined by sustainability and technological innovation. Her overarching goal is to optimise dairy yield while simultaneously minimizing environmental impact, ensuring economic viability for future generations of farmers. Through the integration of cutting-edge technologies and sustainable practices into farming operations, Nicole is committed to achieving more with less, thereby bolstering the long-term sustainability of the agricultural sector in Ireland.

As a forward-thinking young farmer, Nicole is dedicated to making strategic improvements on her farm to not only achieve a better work-life balance but also transition from the current 2–3-person system to a more efficient one-person operation through enhanced technology and infrastructure. Her plans for investment include the introduction of collars, drafting gates, automatic calf feeders, and solar panels, all aimed at boosting efficiency while promoting environmental stewardship.

young dairy farmer speaking

Nicole’s advocacy extends beyond her farm gates; as an active member of Macra na Feirme and an ambassador for the National Dairy Council, she champions the adoption of sustainable practices and endeavors to bridge the gap between scientific research and practical farming applications. Nicole’s commitment to making scientific research and green initiatives accessible to both farmers and consumers underscores her dedication to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing environmental stewardship within the industry.

Nicole’s passion for educating others about the realities of dairy farming in Ireland is evident in her efforts to engage with non-farming audiences and share the highs and lows of agricultural life. Her recent participation in a podcast hosted by Kathryn Thomas, where she joined other women in agriculture to discuss their experiences as young farmers in Ireland, exemplifies her commitment to fostering understanding and dialogue within the broader community. Listen HERE

Farmer and King Charles
Herdwatch: Nicole’s Essential Tool for Farm Compliance

In her quest for efficiency and sustainability, Nicole relies on technology like the Herdwatch App to streamline farm management tasks. With its user-friendly interface and comprehensive features, Herdwatch has become an indispensable tool for Nicole, allowing her to maintain a full-time job with DATAMARS Livestock while improving efficiency and productivity on her family farm.

Herdwatch empowers Nicole to carry each of her animals in the palm of her hand, ensuring she has every detail readily available at the click of a button. This seamless access enables her to make informed decisions about her herd’s management with confidence and precision.

“Herdwatch grants me access to vital information about my herd anytime, anywhere. With its milk performance dashboard, I can effortlessly track our top and bottom performers, monitor somatic cell count (SCC), milk yield, and a wealth of other crucial metrics.”

Dairy Farm Insights

Nicole finds the Herdwatch app particularly invaluable during Bord Bia audit time. By recording all her medicine usage, calf registration, weights, and more on the app as she goes, she gains peace of mind knowing that when the Bord Bia auditor arrives, all her records will be up to date and ready to pass over with ease.

“Utilising Herdwatch has truly transformed our operations. It significantly reduces paperwork, ensuring compliance without the usual hassle. With everything accessible from my phone, it saves time and alleviates worries. The app has streamlined how we handle farm records and compliance, making our processes more efficient and stress-free.”

 

From monitoring her herd’s performance to simplifying Bord Bia audits, Herdwatch has streamlined farm management tasks, reducing paperwork and ensuring compliance with ease. As Nicole continues to lead the way in embracing technology and sustainable practices, her story serves as inspiration for farmers seeking to optimise their operations and pave the way for a brighter future in agriculture.

You too can join Nicole & over 22,000 other farmers benefiting from the Herdwatch app today!

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