UCD agricultural science student, Noel Banville, wanted to improve his dairy skills as well as learn about business and agricultural policy during his time at Dourie
I grew up in County Wexford in the south east corner of Ireland where my family have a 200-acre beef and tillage (crop) farm. I have always worked on the farm but am also mid-way through an agricultural science degree at University College Dublin (UCD) specialising in animal and crop production.
As part of my degree I’m required to gain experience in as many areas of agriculture as possible so this academic year I’ve spent a month on a 1200-sow pig unit and a semester at Cornell University in upstate New York. When I leave Dourie I’ll be lambing for three weeks in County Antrim before working with the Irish Farmers Association in Dublin and Brussels, and lastly doing some crops research with one of my UCD tutors.
My course at Cornell was very focused on dairy science and was excellent preparation for my placement here. We spent a lot of time in the laboratory and with the University’s 200 teaching-cows learning, for example, about transition and milk fever. I was intending to spend longer in the USA but the systems there are largely indoors, so when my advisor at UCD posted the opportunity at Dourie, my head was turned by the chance to learn about an outdoor, New Zealand system. I really wanted to learn about the practical as well as the technical side of things and older agricultural science students advised me to find placement farms with staff who are willing to teach.
I definitely feel I’ve got that with Dourie. I’ve had both broad and in-depth experience working with Becca the dairy manager and Jordan the dairy manager trainee, in particular with cows post-calving. I really appreciate now what is required to meet dairy production gold standards, for example with matching feed requirements to lactation, as well as grass-measuring and optimum hygiene in the parlour. It has been really rewarding to see our hard work cleaning the parlour pay off with good cell and bacto counts.
I was also interested to learn about the breed of cow here (a Holstein-Jersey cross) and how robust it needs to be to maintain production with the Scottish climate. In the USA the cows’ intake was 35kg whereas here it’s 17kg!
My average day starts in the parlour at 5.30am, taking cows that have calved in the past 24 hours and getting them into milk. I then move onto the main milking herd before going back to the colostrum mob which are being transferred to the milking herd.
I’ve also been lucky to sit down with Rory and Becca and talk about the business, its management structures and the kinds of systems Dourie uses to ensure good time management. This has been really invaluable as I will be able to implement the strategies I’ve learned regardless of where I work.
Another reason I wanted to come to Dourie is because of Rory’s interests in co-operation and his involvement with SAOS and the Milk Suppliers Association. Learning from someone who is in touch with the practical side of farming as well as business and agricultural policy has been invaluable. Another great perk of working at Dourie is that the standard of accommodation and pay are excellent.