Sallywood Holstein Friesian herd – Oliver Conneely & family, Ballyglass, Williamstown, Co. Galway

Stockmanship skills develop herd from an initial two cows in the 1970s to 80 high-quality pedigree registered cows today 

An IHFA Galway club herd profile 

A dear departed Holstein Friesian breeder, family man, longest serving AI sales rep in the business and lifetime club member, Luke Conneely (RIP), will be present in spirit and fondly remembered when the Sallywood herd which he successfully established with his loving wife Maureen in the 1970s, hosts the next Galway Club field evening. In sudden circumstances on July 12th last year, Luke peacefully passed on to his eternal reward. Determined to honour his late father’s commitment to the club, son Oliver who continues on the dairy farm, and the Conneely family will proudly host the club and welcome visitors from near and far to the family home outside Ballymoe, once the event is re-scheduled, post the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

A new milking parlour completed just over two years ago has been a major recent investment on the farm. It is an eight-unit Boumatic double low-line parlour and is a major step-up in efficiency and use of modern technology. Luke and Oliver worked very hard to bring the parlour to fruition, completing a lot of the manual labour. Oliver is delighted with the success of the new parlour. “The feed-to-yield feature is very beneficial. It results in improved performance overall, higher productivity with reduced milking time and cows are under less stress. Milking time is now a lot less which allows more time every day to get on with other tasks and to spend more time with the family.”

Currently there are 25 cows scored to VG/EX standard of IHFA Classification in the herd. Oliver comments, 

“The type of cow that I like is a medium-size cow, with strength and power, who can respond when she is fed. Mature cows should have the ability to produce 600 – 650kgs milk solids per lactation. Overall frame is important in order for cows to have the strength to sustain themselves for a long lifetime. There is an added benefit arising from cull cow income, it all adds up at the end of the year.    

“We are farming limited acres, so the focus is on quality rather than quantity and getting the very most from every cow. The land is a heavy type, constantly dependant on the weather and nature. Allowing for unpredictable weather, during autumn and spring especially, the aim every year is to make the highest-quality silage possible. When weather and ground conditions dictate during the grazing year buffer feeding at grass may also be required, so quantity of silage is also an important annual consideration. With this in mind reseeding is carried out on a frequent basis so that the farm can benefit from high yielding and improved quality pastures suitable for both grazing and silage swards”.

With 70 acres owned the total area farmed in 135 acres. The milking herd consists of 78 cows with followers, including 15 bulling heifers and 20 heifer calves. “Due to the recent disruption with transitioning to a new parlour, milk recording has been sporadic in the last while. However, we are now back on track with regular recording again as a normal routine. Currently the cows are yielding 8,943kgs milk, 3.90% fat, 3.30% protein”. 

20 cows are calved during autumn/winter to fill co-op contract, with the remaining proportion calved during the spring. Nutrition and diet formulation are considered carefully to optimise economic production response and to augment the forage quality.

“Originally from nearby Kilkerrin, Dad worked in Galway, driving diggers after finishing school, to save up money. After he and Mam got married, they worked hard on the farm to rear their family – Shane, Marie and myself. They decided that dairying was the way forward and so Dad built a milking parlour on the farm and started milking cows in the late 1970s. 

“He registered the Sallywood prefix and began with a herd of just two cows. Making improvements each year and increasing numbers gradually, the herd consisted of 30 cows at the onset of quotas in 1984. He always knew the type of cow that he liked. She certainly had to be milky and have strength. Selective purchases of choice cow family lines were made over the years which helped add quality and increase numbers.”   

Cow families such as Princess, Snow White, Buttercup, Begonia, Nancy, Erle, Barbara and Ann are very prominent.           

Maureen, Oliver and his wife Lorraine and their children Michael (10), Kate (8) and Oliver’s nephew Aaron (11), who all help out on the farm as a helpful team, are looking forward to hosting the Galway Club event when the time comes round. 

(First published in 2020)

Sallywood cows at grass
The Sallywood Herd
Luke Conneely (RIP)