David and his family, farm just under 11 hectares in Roberstown, Co. Limerick.
Here they run a small suckler herd with just under 20 cows. They operate a spring calving suckling to weaning system, in the beautiful surroundings of the Shannon estuary. He says he loves where he lives, citing its beauty and the sense of community in the area as the main reasons.
The Farm is run full-time by his father, Michael, who recently retired as a chef in the Salesian College Pallaskenry. David is an only child, meaning he was often roped in to help out.
“My father Michael is running this full time as he has recently retired as a chef in Salesian College Pallaskenry,” he said.
“I am the one and only so growing up me and mam (Kathleen) were always required to stand in a gap here and there...we still rope mam in to this day and we have great help from family, friends and neighbours,” he added.
Interest in farming;
Growing up David had a keen eye for sports, rather than agriculture, though that changed with age.
“Growing up I had no real interest in the farm and seen it more as a pain as I was more interested in playing GAA and soccer, “ he said.
“However as time went on and I reached leaving cert age I began to take a little more interest,” he added.
Having been guided by his parents and having developed an interest in business and accounting, it was decided to pursue a college course in Law and Taxation. Though this all changed, with traumatic events in his leaving cert year, which saw his father fall ill.
“Dad suffered an illness that left him at one stage with no movement from the neck down, as you can imagine this was a stressful time for everyone,” said David.
The next few months were spent stressing about his father, exams and his father working to get back fit in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire. Because of the staff's hard work, his father was able to return home after less than 6-months and he was even able to return to part-time work and drive!
Although that year was a tough one, David decided not to defer his college course for the year. This meant the family had to sell most of the herd, though they kept two to three cows. The next year was when they decided to build numbers up again.
“The following year dad bought in a few weanlings and fattened them. While it kept the farm ticking over and provided an interest for dad, I do not think either of us enjoyed it,” he said.
His father then began to look at the cattle facilities we had and it was decided that an old hay shed would be converted into a 2 bay slatted unit. This is when David’s interest began to return.
“Being honest, I think this is where my interest began to come back to the idea of farming” said David.
“I could see it as being a business and one that didn’t require you to muck out sheds on a daily basis with a wheelbarrow and fork!” he added.
The years rolled by and the team of three then began building stock numbers further. Buying cows on the likes of Done Deal on a regular basis.
“I got a thrill out of trying to convince dad that a particular animal was the one we should buy. In fairness to my father, he is more than willing to listen and take on board my views, though that is not to say he will agree with them all” states David.
David became more of a heavy influence on the farm, following his father’s illness. He cited the feeling of a “strong sense of duty” to be around for his father as the factor.
“I have never being pressured into farming and its funny, if you asked me 10 years ago, would I now being doing a green cert course, I would have asked what the hell is that??! never mind have an interest in doing one.” he joked.
David, through reading on formats such as ThatsFarming, began developing a keen interest in cattle breeding. He says he was always interested in different traits of different breeds. He says he and his father try to ensure that all his cows calf unassisted every year, with bountiful supplies of milk and vigorous calves.
This got the farming duo to buy a Simmental bull from local breeder Shane Jameson. David says the heifers obtained from this bull going on to be 5-star on the replacement index. Now the family have changed again, buying an Aubrac bull.
The duo are also now part of GLAS schemes and KT beef programmes, which after discussions between the pair, led to them both deciding it was the best thing for the farm.
“In fairness to dad he took it on board and went with them, it also ensures that dad is getting a benefit out of these through course days meeting other farmers getting new ideas etc so everyone is learning,” he said.
The team have also recently started selling any weanlings privately, as they feel mart prices haven’t been doing them justice.
As mentioned above, David recently decided to start a green cert distant learning course and is back in Salesian college, Pallaskenry. He hopes to have it complete by February of 2019 although he would love to get it finished earlier.
“I don’t know is it eagerness or lack of patience on my part. I have enjoyed it so far have met some very interesting people and there is a great mix in my group from sheep farms to beef men to dairy men” he said.
Now he works full time and has recently moved job to Shannon Commercial Properties as procurement officer. He now lives in Dooradoyle in Limerick, but with the GAA and now farming playing a major part in his life, he spends a lot of time at home.
The plan is to someday soon build or buy his own home, though this is a challenge. He also already lends a hand coaching underage GAA and the local minor team this year, though he admits his schedule is already very busy, especially during calving season. The team though, reached a west Limerick final this year and David himself even got to play in a Munster final to cap a successful sporting calendar.
“Its busy all year round, I am blessed my girlfriend Aoife is so understanding and in fairness, she quite enjoys seeing all the animals and walking the farm, so that definitely helps!” he laughs.
“Although I have yet to convince to come with me from Limerick at 4am midweek when dad rings to say we have a cow calving....... maybe this calving season she might,” he adds.
He hopes to increase cow numbers up to 25 in the near future, though he says they would then have to look at bettering their current housing facilities. He also says the team of two may have to build new roadways, improve drainage on land and increase land fertility. He hopes to have all this done within three years and to have a herd of cows with over 120 on the replacement index.
He would also love to rent or buy more land, but says competition is high at the moment and admits the bigger farmers would have more to spend. He would also love to buy a four-wheel drive tractor, though admits this is a luxury item as they have outside contractors do most of their work.
“Whatever happens for the moment I am delighted to help dad continue to produce the best cattle he can and ensure that he get the best value for money from all the hard work he puts in,” he said.
“He has showed me what a strong belief and work ethic can achieve and when I do take over the farm it will be with his blessing. But, I have so much to learn and I hope to continue to do so from my studies in Pallaskenry” David added.
“I know it will be an interesting and challenging few years, not just for myself but farming in general with CAP reforms Brexit not to mention factory prices and climate change... But I look forward to making this farming journey I am on, one that is financially successful but equally personally satisfying,” he said
“Come back to me in 5 years and see if I still have this drive!” he concluded.
Although he may not have always loved farming, David is a man who fell into farming and completely immersed himself in it with no regrets. Quite luckily for him and his father, business and agriculture go hand in hand!