IHFA Student Bursary
The IHFA Student Bursary was awarded to two final-year students of Gurteen College on March 16th last. The bursaries were presented as part of the graduation of final year students who now go on to pursue their careers either through further education or commencing full-time farming. Gurteen College breeds a pedigree registered Holstein Friesian herd which is unique among the colleges in Ireland. It is therefore fitting for IHFA to lend support to Gurteen in its educational ethos. This is the third successful year of the bursary initiative, lending enthusiastic encouragement to the young graduates.
The college dairy herd consists of 240 pedigree registered Holstein Friesian cows. It is a high EBI spring calving herd with a mature yield target of 510kgs milk solids per cow. The diet consists mainly of grazed grass and grass silage with all forage grown on the farm. The high fertility of the herd and excellent management resulted in a pregnancy rate of 94% at the end of the breeding season.
The college has completed significant expansion in recent years, increasing herd size on a phased basis, growing cow numbers from within. A new milking parlour built on a green-field site with ancillary facilities was also completed to cater for the expanded herd size. The class of final-year students were tasked with completing a written project setting out a detailed strategy on how to successfully convert a beef enterprise over to dairying. The project, based on a theoretical conversion scenario, required a high degree of knowledge and understanding across a number of disciplines including; financial planning, taxation, buildings and infrastructure development, stock purchasing, breeding policy, grassland management, nutrient management planning and herd health protocols. The top five students were then selected to go forward for an interview. Charles Gallagher CE and Peter Ging, Charirperson, were members of the interview panel along with college lecturers Stephanie Scully and Richard Hamilton.
Congratulations to John Coakley who is the winner of the bursary for this year, with Aaron Murphy selected as runner-up. Both impressed the judges with their detailed level of knowledge and in-depth understanding of dairy farming. Their detailed examination of the necessary KPIs of the farm business case study was commendable.
John Coakley farms with his parents, John and Carol, close to Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Their Oldcarton pedigree registered herd of 100 Holstein Friesian cows has a herd average yield of 8,500kgs, 650kgs milk solids. The total area farmed is 150 acres which consists predominantly of grass with maize also grown on the farm.
John highlights the importance of good cow families. Now that he has returned home to farm full-time, his immediate focus is “To get better at what we are already achieving with the herd, to continue to work with balanced cows of mature VG/EX standard of conformation, with a capability for efficient production of milk solids with top-end fertility and longevity for a long, productive lifetime”. The herd has improved over the years from a combination of highly successful home-bred families such as Kitty, Rena and Honey, in addition to select members of the Raven, Darlene and Lulu families from Monamore, Jenina family from the Borkilbeg herd and a number of successful families originating from the Clongowes herd. The Coakley family is very involved with the Kildare club and John is an active member of the club committee.
Aaron Murphy, from Glasson in County Westmeath, hails from a mixed beef and sheep background. His parents manage a herd of 35 pedigree suckler cows along with 150 ewes and 500 store lambs. He plans to convert to dairy farming in his own right in the future. Currently Aaron is pursuing further agricultural studies, undertaking a Dairy Farm Management Diploma Level 7 course through Teagasc, Moorepark. Since September he has been completing on-farm placement with a high EBI Holstein Friesian herd in county Offaly, which he is enjoying immensely as an excellent on-farm learning curve.
Both John and Aaron said that they are very grateful to IHFA for the bursary, commenting that it is an extra incentive and encouragement to do well throughout the duration of their course study at Gurteen. John and Aaron have bright futures ahead of them as young, well-grounded and enthusiastic individuals. They are a credit to their families. We wish them both the very best of luck with their careers into the future.