Career Profile: Laurence Howard


Laurence Howard, a Green Certificate holder worked on a farm with up to 22,500 cows in Saudi Arabia and spent one decade there, before he returned home to Claggan Island, Mayo to farm.

Career Profile: Laurence Howard

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Laurence Howard, a Green Certificate holder worked on a farm with up to 22,500 cows in Saudi Arabia and spent one decade there, before he returned home to Claggan Island, Mayo to farm.

Laurence Howard, Claggan Island, Belmullet, in Co. Mayo graduated with a Green Certificate from Mountbellew Agricultural College in 1996 following the completion of his Leaving Certificate.

He undertook an additional three years training with the Farm Apprenticeship Board and gained experience on various suckler beef and dairy enterprises before he qualified as a farm manager in 1999.

From there, Laurence secured a position as an assistant farm manager on Michael Murphy's farm in Oldcastle, Co. Meath which comprised of 280 cross-bred Jersey cows.

The Mayo native progressed up the career later and took over as farm manager in April 2001; he continued this role until 2003 when he decided to venture across the waters.

"I wanted to see something different so I headed for Almarai in Saudi Arabia. The plan was to go for five years if I liked it, but I ended up staying there for a decade." Laurence Howard told Catherina Cunnane of That's Farming.

"I was about nine-years-old when I watched a video of a local man who spent ten years in Saudi Arabi. Travel was always at the back of my mind so I wanted to go."

Saudi Arabia

Laurence worked on numerous farms milking up to 22,500 cows, producing 930,000 litres of milk/day with an additional 24,000 dry cows; youngstock and 700 staff.

"When I joined the team, there were only about 1,000 cows and it grew rapidly over the years. From a career perspective, this remains my ultimate highpoint to date."

After ten years of exploring agriculture overseas, Laurence returned back to his home soil in 2013 and began building and improving the farm which has been in the Howard family since the late 1890's. Laurence is the fourth generation of the Howard family to live here.

Suckler Farming

The herd now comprises of fifty Limousin-cross and Charolais-cross 50 suckler cows, all of which are bred to a Charolais sire.

The weanlings are sold at a local mart in October/November when they are 8 months of age and reach between 320-350kg. Up to twenty of the herd's best bull weanlings go under the hammer during the first week of October every year.

"2017 was the first year that we got €1,000 for our weanlings - something that we achieved through good breeding and grassland management with minimum inputs," Laurence explained.

"We are using more AI and are beginning to bring the calving date forward to have strong weanlings when selling them," Laurence added.

Producing more '€1,000 weanlings' as time progresses is a goal that the Belmullet native has earmarked and he believes that this is achievable.

Laurence's extensive farm and farm managerial experience that he obtained in Ireland and across the waters has influenced his vision when it comes to setting goals on his own farm as outlined above.

"I was always lucky in the sense that I was surrounded by some of the most knowledgeable, progressive farmers; this has inspired me to continue to push myself to reach my goals."

Advice

The Mayo native encourages people to strive to achieve their full potential and said that further education can be an ideal stepping stone for candidates to progress in the agricultural sector.

"Completing the Green Certificate was a great starting block for me. Most people going into agriculture have a background in farming, which influences their career direction and gives them a foot in the door."

"My advice is to aim for the top and don't let anything stop up. Get the most that you can out of every experience and enjoy it - that is the main thing."

Future Plans

Looking forward, Laurence's will continue to work on developing the farm and improving the herd, including the implementation of a 12-week compact calving period.

"Long-term, the plan is to increase the herd to sixty cows and run this in an efficient way so that I can continue to have a work-life balance, as a suckler farmer and father-of-three young boys." Laurence Howard concluded.

If you have a story to share, email - catherina@thatsfarming.com - and you may be featured on That's Farming next week.

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