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Top Class Milk Production on Offaly Farm

Maria & Padraig Keane are a young couple who have taken over the family farm at Ballywilliam, Kilcormac, Co. Offaly. Maria is from Askeaton in West Limerick. They met in August 2015 at a festival in Roscrea and got married in August 2018. Both of them have been working on the farm full time since then.

After finishing his Ag Science degree in UCD and spending time milking cows in both New Zealand and Ireland, Pádraig converted the Keane suckler herd into a dairy enterprise in 2013.

Maria has a postgrad in Accounting from the University of Limerick. She says, “Pádraig loves grass, I love financials, we both love cows   so we work well together as a team producing milk for Glanbia Plc.” They have a thirst for knowledge so they are both members of two farm discussion groups (Pasture Apprentices & West Offaly) and Jim Moyles is their valued Teagasc Dairy adviser.

Maria and Padraig are active on Social Media such as Facebook and Instagram with over 1,800 followers. They have a popular Facebook page Keane Farm Life and 3.62K subscribers on their YouTube video channel.  One of their popular videos “How Do We Decide Who’s Finished Milking?” has 16k views.

The family farm was originally purchased by Padraig’s parents (John and Gertrude) in the 90’s. It was originally a dry stock and tillage farm before becoming a suckler farm with Angus and Hereford stock.

Pádraig converted the farm to milk production in 2013 with a 200,000 litres New Entrant Quota. He  started with 45 in-calf heifers and today they  milk 140 cows today .The High EBI herd is 2/3 Holstein Friesian and  1/3 Jersey and  Norwegian Red cross breeds. They average 5,800L/cow and supplied 520kgMS/cow to their co-op in 2019.

Their spring calving herd is milk recorded and they operate a 10 week breeding season. Cows are milked in a 20 unit herringbone parlour, and they use an ACR system and lightweight clusters.  Milking takes 1.5 to two hours and it is usually a two person operation.

 Cows are fed 0.6 to 1.2 tonnes of dairy nuts pa depending on grass growth and weather conditions. Their feed target is 0.5 tonnes/cow pa if they can produce more milk from grass.

Their current milking platform is 120 acres which is 50/50 owned /leased. The overall stocking rate is 2.5 livestock units per Ha. Cows on grass for around 280 days pa and are supplemented by Zero grazing from an out farm when grass is scarce during a drought or when grazing conditions are poor.

Padraig has built a new cubicle house and has installed excellent handling facilities for AI and hoof care. A robotic scraper is used to clean the cubicle house. They make great use of local agri contracting services and their baled silage is made by John Egan, Alan and Dara Bulfsin from AB Contracting Services.

When they started dairying five years ago they installed a new 10 tonne V-Mac silo from McAree Engineering. Padraig checked around with members of their discussion groups to get their valued opinions and they recommended the V –Mac silos.

According to Padraig “They were not the cheapest but were the best value for money due to their being trouble free and long life. Since we installed the McAree silo we never had to look at it. We clean it out every so often and the 6” side spout at the bottom of the cone is very handy for filing a meal barrow if we want to feed other stock.”

He went on to say that “when we ordered the feed silo, the McAree team advised us on preparing the concrete base. After about two weeks when the concrete was cured the bin was erected in less than two hours. So we are very happy with our decision to deal with McAree Engineering.”

Award Winning AD System on Waterford Pig Farm

The feed ingredients are stored in six V –Mac silos manufactured by McAree Engineering based in Ballinode, Co. Monaghan. Pictured L2R are Ashleigh Farms , Directors, James and Jason McGrath with Eamon McMeel, McAree Engineering

Ashleigh Farms at Glenbeg near Dungarvan began from humble beginnings in the early 1960s when David McGrath started the enterprise with two sows and a big dream.

His oldest son Jim took on the management of the farm at an early age and grew it to a herd of 1,900 sows.They now have a hard working and dedicated team of 16 full time workers employed in pig production, feed manufacture and transport.

Jim has 3 sons involved in the business, James is a graduate of Waterford IT where he studied Construction Management & Engineeringwhich was obviously a big advantage when it came to building farm buildings and installing feeding, slurry and ventilation   equipment.

His brother Jason a graduate of UCD Michael Smurfit business school is Director of Ashleigh Farms and runs the pig operation while another brother,Ken is also a director of Ashleigh Farms and MD of Ashleigh Environmental.

 Today it is among the top performing farms in Europe, producing up to 34 pigs per sow per year.According to Teagasc the Irish average is 27 pigs/sow/year so Ashleigh Farms is one of the best pig producers in Ireland.

Their pig breed is Danish genetics, and all three pig units are both Bord Bia and Red Tractor quality assured.All pigs are sold to Rosderra Meats thereby helping to secure hundreds of valuable jobs in rural Ireland.Their pigs consumes over 16,000 tons of feed per year and the McGraths manufacture most of their own feed.

Farming Ethos

 According to Jason “we have a very high emphasis on animal health, nutrition, welfare, production output and staff development. Bio-security is of utmost importance and we operate an environmentally friendly pig production farming system.”

The feed ingredients are stored in six  V –Mac silos (2 x 9 ton, 2 x 18 ton, 2 x 30 ton) manufactured by McAree Engineering in who are based in Ballinode, Co. Monaghan.

Jim McGrath says that “we have dealing with McAree Since we build our new unit in 2018.We were very happy with the quality and structure of their bins, also their customer service and delivery was excellent.”

For the new unit Big Dutchman in Germany, supplied the penning, feeding system and ventilation.According to Jim “we use   freedom farrowing pens which we designed with Big Dutchman with some of the latest technologies and innovation.”

Check out Youtube video clip at

On-Farm Anaerobic Digestion

 Ashleigh farms also has a slurry cooling system as part of their  sustainability plan, which consists of approx. 10km of pipe underneath the slurry tanks providing a renewable heat source for the heat pump.

Jim says that “we operate our own on-farm biogas plant utilising pig slurries.We built this facility in late 2017 in partnership with our sister company Ashleigh Environmental.The biogas plant handles approx. 9,000 m3 of pig slurry per year.

This has a number of positive benefits for the farm and the environment around usIn 2018 approx. 70,000 m3 of renewable biogas was produced on site and used for heating.

Indeed the overall heating energy cost has been reduced by 35% or €8,000 pa. This system also reduces ammonia by up to 30% and odour by up to 20%. (Slurry cooling system) According to Ken “based on Teagasc published results we are reducing our annual CO2 equivalent by up to 37% or by 390 tonnes. (AD system)

 naerobic Digestion (AD) reduces odour associated with slurry that would otherwise be stored in large tanks or lagoons.The by-product from the Anaerobic Digester is a nutrient rich organic fertiliser called digestate, which local farmers spread on arable and grassland.

The nutrients are considerably more available in the digestate compared to raw slurry and as fertiliser it is much more consistent in its application on to the soil.

Their award winning sister company Ashleigh Environmental is developing innovative bioenergy related technologies and has been successful working with project partners across Europe.The current system under development is called Biowave™ and more information can be found at the dedicated company website:

Editor’s Note 

V-Mac silos are constructed using Magizinc, a modern steel that provides the extremely high levels of protection against corrosion and with exclusive interlocked forming and are incredibly strong.

McAree Engineering has been helping farmers to protect their feed since the 1960’s when Vincent McAree designed and manufactured the very first V-Mac feed silo. They now have one of the most modern manufacturing facilities in Europe and the emphasis is on product quality and customer service.

The business   employs 150 people from both sides of the border in three factory units. Their focus is on the design and manufacture of sheet metal fabrication solutions for the industrial and agricultural sectors.

They offer a  full outsource sheet metal service from design through to laser cutting, folding,  fabrication, dry powder paint coating and assembly in addition to the design and manufacture of V-Mac Silos.

They also have a projects division which is currently working on a major Industrial HVAC ducting project for a leading semiconductor manufacturer. 

The UCD research farm at Lyons Estate and various Teagasc agricultural colleges are among the many farms where the award winning V-Mac silos can be seen in operation.Check out their range of market leading feed silos, tote bins etc on YouTube at or at

For more information please contact McAree Engineering, Ballinode, Co. Monaghan. Tel:  + 353 (0)47 79000or Peter Richardson, Sales & Marketing Manager. Tel:   (+ 353 (0) 872584584) or Email: 

Embrace FARM Online Ecumenical Remembrance Service -Sunday 28th June at 2pm

Embrace FARM first ever online Ecumenical Remembrance service to remember loved ones lost or injured in farm accidents Families are encouraged to send names for inclusion in online ‘roll-call’ as part of the #WeRememberYou campaign Embrace FARM, the support network for those affected by farm accidents, is encouraging people to join in the #WeRememberYou campaign this June to remember a person in their life lost or injured in a farm accident. The campaign will this year culminate in an online Remembrance Service on Sunday 28th June at 2pm where names of those affected by a farm accident will be spoken in order to honour their memory. Kairos Productions will be producing this for Embrace Farm and it will be online for a live stream at 2pm. It will also be shown on RTE on Sunday 5th July at 11am.

This is the seventh such annual Remembrance Service, but the first to be hosted online. Last year more than 150 families had their loved ones remembered at the Ecumenical Service and Embrace FARM is encouraging people to send names of those they would like remembered this year. Speaking about this initiative, Brian Rohan, Founder of Embrace FARM said “Our annual remembrance service is hugely important in the personal grieving process for many individuals and families. Last year we had hundreds of people attend the service and while we cannot gather this year because of the Covid 19 social distancing guidelines, we just knew we had to host the event in a virtual way.

Behind each death there is a grieving family who are trying to find meaning and comfort. Behind every farm accident victim is a survivor who’s injury may be impacting themselves and their families lives. We would encourage anyone who would like their father, mother, husband, wife, child, relative or someone important to their family or community remembered to send us their details so that we can honour their memory and continue to support each other on our collective journey.” Statistics From 2010 to 2019 there have been 214 lives lost due to farm related accidents in the Republic of Ireland according to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). A further 39 lives were lost from 2013 to 2019 in Northern Ireland according to the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI). Teagasc research carried out between 2012-2017 estimates there are an average of 2500 farm accidents per year.

Embrace FARM is a registered charity which aims to provide support for those affected by farm accidents based on shared personal experience. The organisation hosts the annual Remembrance Service, Residential Weekends for families and spouses facilitated by an accredited counsellor, farm accident support groups and conferences, information evenings and farm safety information days. Embrace FARM also works with other organisations and charities requiring additional emotional or practical support in the aftermath of the accident. Embrace FARM Remembrance Service The Embrace FARM online remembrance service will take place on Sunday 28th June at 2pm. The live stream will be broadcast on

To submit loved ones details for inclusion call or WhatsApp 085-7709966 or email with name, county, year of death or accident and a photograph if available. For further information follow @EmbraceFARM on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and join the conversation using the hashtag #WeRememberYou. Ends Notes to Editor: Embrace FARM (Farming Accidents Remembered & Missed) was established by Brian Rohan and his wife Norma in 2014.

Having experienced the tragic loss of his father Liam during 2012 in a farming accident, Brian and Norma decided after some research to organise an ecumenical remembrance service for families who had lost a loved one or suffered serious injury in a farming accident. Embrace FARM is supported by a voluntary board of directors who give their time freely in the development of the organisation. Photo attached: • Embrace Founders Brian and Norma Rohan

Dairygold Coop Supplier Eliminates Baled Silage Waste

Photo by Fergal O’Gorman shows from left are Ashling & Brian Desmond, Contractor Jim Deasy & Seamus O’Callaghan, Durapak Agri.

The results of the CSO December 2019 Livestock Survey show that the provisional estimate

for the total number of sheep was 3,908,300 an increase of 109,800 on December 2018.

The number of dairy cows increased by 56,700 (+4.1%) while cattle 2 years and over (excluding cows and bulls) increased by 23,000 (+5.2%).

According to DAFM data dairy cow numbers as of1 March were up by 5%.

Overall, the total number of calves registered so far this year amounts to 1,649,787 head compared to 1,585,221 in 2019.

Surprisingly the number of beef calves registered as 1 May has also increased by 3.3 %.

Calf exports from the Republic of Ireland up to the week ending May 5 to other EU destinations are well behind 2019 levels, according to the Dept of Agriculture.

So we will need a lot more silage available for feeding to livestock next winter and spring. 

Making extra silage is not an option on many farmers and it is an unwelcome extra expense.

However, one solution is to minimise storage loses for baled silage conserved.

Jerome Desmond, his wife Majella and their son Brian operate a dairy farm at Garryhesta, Ovens in Co. Cork.

This is a family farm where son Tom and daughter Aisling also help out at weekends and during holiday time.

Brian aged 21 years was educated at Clonakilty Agricultural College and also worked on a large dairy farm for six months in New Zealand.

Milk from their mixed herd of 130 Holstein Friesian and Jersey x cows is supplied to Dairygold Co-op.

The average yield for this spring calving herd is 6,500 litres (over 1.400 gals) and milk is produced mainly from top quality grazed grass.

This farm is on dry land and they budget for a three-month winter but make plenty silage to cover for the possibility of an early winter, late spring or summer droughts.

They make 70 acres of first cut clamp silage and 40-50 acres of a second cut. Around 450 bales of silage are also made by their local baled silage contractors Aidan Deasy and his son Jim.

Aidan and Jim operate two McHale Fusion3 Plus balewrappers and they give their customers a choice of using netwrap or Baletite.

They own Aherla Farm &Plant Hire and do silage work for around 50 local farmers.

According to Aidan, 90% of their customers have now switched from netwrap to Baletite.

Jim says that this is “because the silage preserves better, bales are easier to handle and less subject to damage when they are moved.”

“They give us a very good service, “says Brian. Baletite costs €1 more per bale and is referred to as balewrap by farmers and their contractors.

The Desmonds have been using Baletite now for two years and are very satisfied with the silage quality.

According to Jerome “we have 100% perfect preservation whereas with the netwrap there was some wastage around the outside of the bale.

Another plus is that it can be disposed of along with the wrap.”

According to Seamus O’Callaghan from Durapak Agri in Ballincollig the local supplier for Baletite

“it is an innovative pre-orientated film that replaces netwrap in round silage bales.

It is specifically designed to enhance the ensiling process and protect the bale contents.”

Lloyd Dawson, Commercial Director Silage with Berry bpi agriculture the manufacturers of Baletite says that “being a film,

Baletite provides an additional air barrier whilst helping to retain a better bale shape by exerting a tighter grip around the bale circumference.

Plus, it reduces wastage of valuable silage wrap, as, unlike netwrap, no baled fodder can become enmeshed in it.”

Its production from the same base material as balewrap means users don’t have to separate the Baletite from balewrap after use.

Instead, both Baletite and the accompanying balewrap can be recycled together thereby saving valuable time and labour costs.

Baletite bales benefit from an enhanced ensiling process resulting in better crop conservation thanks

to the increased oxygen barrier afforded by the extra film layers around the bale circumference.

As a pre-orientated film manufactured using blown film co-extrusion lines,

Baletite offers exceptional puncture resistance even with tough, stemmy forage crops.

Its ability to cover the bale from edge to edge offers additional protection around the edge of the bale – especially useful when baling stalky crops.

Baletite exerts a tight grip around the bale circumference to compress content and expel oxygen faster.

Due to the high tightening force, Baletite creates tighter, more compact bales that benefit from a more rounded shape.

. The RPC bpi agriculture group employs over 2,000 people, has a turnover of over £700 M and operations in 23 countries.

RPC bpi recycled products is a fully audited polythene reprocessor certified with ISO 9001, ISO14001, and OHSAS 18001.

It is Europe’s largest polythene recycler and processes over 120,000 tonnes pa.

This covers LDPE and HDPE recycling and can be grouped into industrial, packaging and agricultural waste.

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30 New Jobs at McAree Engineering & Strategic Partnership

Photo shows Minister Heather Humphreys with the McAree Management Team of David Caraher, Vincent McAree, Brendan McAree, Claire McAree and Peter Richardson

McAree Engineering, has announced upwards of 30 new roles which they plan to fill early in 2020.

The company which already employs 145 staff across its three factories in Ballinode and Carrickroe, North Monaghan made the announcement

a week after they signed a Strategic Partnership agreement with Kilnaleck based, Breffni Air.

“We have invested some €5M in facilities and new capability in the past 18 months and this will continue with an additional investment of €2m in 2020.

With Breffni Air, we are commencing a long term HVAC ducting project which will allow us to get the most from this investment and

we are absolutely delighted to announce these additional jobs for North Monaghan ” added Brendan McAree, Managing Director

Welcoming the announcement, Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation added

“Huge congratulations to McAree Engineering on this fantastic news, which will come as a huge boost to North Monaghan and the wider region.

They are a shining light for homegrown rural businesses right across the country, proving that you don’t have to be in a big city to achieve big success.

The positive impact that they have on the local area cannot be underestimated and I would like to wish Brendan and the team the very best in the exciting chapter ahead.”

Vincent McAree, Operations Director stated “we have collaborated with Breffni Air for almost 20 years on a number of projects so it made sense to formalise this arrangement.

We share the same vision of excellence in engineering, have similar values and are both growing rapidly.

This partnership will allow us to grow the businesses using each other’s complementary strengths.

We will focus on major industrial HVAC projects which is the driver behind today’s job announcement and will collaborate on a range of new projects”.

HR Manager, Katharine Slowey advises “we have a range of roles available from Design Engineers, CNC Machine Operators,

Assembly Operatives and Fabrication Welders and, we are looking to fill them early in the New Year.

We are also looking to improve the gender balance in McAree Engineering and would love to see more women apply for these roles.

We are a 3rd generation family business and have a strong focus on health and safety whilst at the same time operating

a friendly work environment offering excellent rates of pay.

We believe in ongoing training and offer all our team members the opportunity to work with high-end machines and equipment.

Full details of the roles are available on our website

Editor’s Note

McAree Engineering has been based in Ballinode since 1946 when the company was set up by Brendan’s father, Vince.

They are best known for designing and manufacturing the V-Mac Silo range of Bulk storage solutions mainly for the agricultural sector.

While this is an important part of the business, it accounts for only around 20% of turnover.

They have invested euro millions in state of the art lasers and press brakes, operating one of the most modern suites of sheet metalworking machinery in Ireland and Britain.

They supply components into leading Own Equipment Manufacturers across the island of Ireland in the quarrying and screening, materials handling and agricultural machinery sector.

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