UFU - Ulster Farmers' Union

02/03/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/03/2023 04:07

Five minutes with UFU dairy chair, Kenny Hawkes

Friday, 3 February, 2023

As part of its Februdairy campaign, the Ulster Farmers' Union catches up with its dairy chair, Kenny Hawkes, for a quick Q&A.

Tell us about your farm:

Ranelly Farm is nestled near Omagh, County Tyrone and is a fourth-generation family farm run in partnership with my wife Jennifer and son Graeme. It is home to 220 pedigree Holstein, Jersey and Shorthorn cattle, with a 150 strong dairy herd.

What is the history of your farm?

Originally a mixed farm of beef, sheep, pigs and poultry, the dairy herd was introduced in 1972 and we have supplied the now Dale Farm for over 50 years. Graeme introduced the Jerseys to the herd upon his return from Greenmount in 2006 for their breed traits of quality milk production, feed efficiency, longevity and low carbon footprint. We rear all our own heifer replacements, having spent over thirty years improving the herds pedigree dairy traits.

In addition to the dairy herd, we rear a number of Aberdeen Angus calves and sheep. We have had a wool collection centre for Ulster Wool for almost 20 years and enjoy showing livestock at local agricultural shows.

Why did you decide to become a farmer?

From a very young age I was also heavily involved on the family farm and assisting at our local show. I studied at Enniskillen agricultural college and retuned home to farm alongside my father.

What advice would you give to young farmers in dairying or looking to get into dairying?

My advice to the next generation of young farmers would be to go and work on a dairy farm whether it be relief milking, as a farm hand or a student placement for a few years to build your skills and knowledge of the industry. Assess whether or not you really love what you do as it is a big commitment to make given the capital investment involved in starting a milk business. I would encourage those looking into the dairy sector to attend UFU, Business Development Group and YFCU meetings to speak to likeminded individuals and exchange experiences and farming practices.

What are the biggest issues facing dairy farmers now?

Like all sectors, the rising input costs such as meal, fertiliser and fuel prices are affecting farmers alongside bovine TB and climate change.

What are you doing on farm to tackle climate change?

On the farm, we are trying to reduce CO2 emissions by using more energy efficient systems such as a more efficient cooling systems for our milk and re-using plate cooler water. We are also using better genetics on our cows to try to be more efficient in milk production and to produce better quality milk with lower somatic cell count. This also helps us to create a cow that suits our management system best.

We also have increased our carbon sequestration by planting new hedgerows along field boundaries and this in turn allows nesting and food for birds and pollinators. On the farm we utilise low energy and LED light bulbs and use our own well water to reduce mains water usage and to reduce both our water and electric costs. Throughout the year we soil sample and use LESSE. We continue to drive production efficiencies within our farm which will ultimately lower our methane emissions.