Making the move into dairy pays off for Lois
In recent years, more and more young people have decided to pursue careers in agriculture and are making their mark in the farming sector.
One such woman is dairy farmer Lois Kirkpatrick from Nutt’s Corner, who has made dairy farming her full-time career, and is now one of Dale Farm’s best performing new members.
“Farming has always been a part of my life,” Lois explains. “Our family farm kept beef and sheep when I was growing up, and I have memories from a young age of going out and helping my Dad bring the cows in. As a young girl, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of having a career in farming. The stereotype is that we are a very traditional and male dominated industry, but as I got older I saw more women getting involved in farming and was encouraged by that.”
Lois went on to study agriculture at Greenmount after leaving school.
“I actually focused on beef and sheep farming initially,” Lois said. “However, we used to buy calves from a nearby farm for beef, and my relationship with dairy really began when that neighbour asked if I would help milking the cows. I grew to like the cows, and this experience of learning on the job really opened my eyes to the opportunities dairy could bring.
“When my neighbour talked about retiring, I took the step of taking over the herd, and from that point on it has been all systems go!”
Lois set up her own business on the family farm in 2019 and is a member of dairy cooperative Dale Farm. One of Dale Farm’s best performing new entrants, Lois is milking a herd of 60 pedigree Holsteins, with an annual yield of 8,605 litres per cow.
“Things have been going well and I’m really grateful for the help and advice I’ve received from family and friends along the way as well as the support from Dale Farm for the business,” Lois added.
“My neighbour who previously had the herd still calls round to see the cows and lend a hand too, which is a great help.”
Dairy farming is undoubtedly hard work, but Lois has no regrets and is keen to encourage more women to consider a career within the sector.
“Cows need to be looked after every hour of the day. They need care and attention and as you get to know them, you begin to see they each have their own personalities and preferences! But the effort you put in to caring for them really is worth it. Yes, dairy farming is very demanding, but it is also really rewarding.”
Dale Farm’s Head of Farmer Services, Neville Graham said: “Lois Kirkpatrick is a brilliant example of how someone with a passion for farming can make the move into dairy with great success. Her business is performing extremely well and we’re proud that she made the decision to join the 1,300 other dairy farmers that supply Dale Farm with top quality milk every day.
“Lois has taken advantage of the many services offered within the Dale Farm Group, which includes working with her United Feeds adviser, making use of our Tankcare service, monitoring her herd’s performance via milk recording through Dairy Herd Management and measuring feed efficiency by using the Dale Farm/Kingshay costings service.
“We have no doubt her career journey will inspire other people in agriculture.”