Aidan Lightholder is a suckler farmer from Co. Meath and as we know, the beef sector in Ireland has been under threat for some time, so in order to best utilise his farm, Aidan decided to use his machinery to its optimum potential and start a contracting business in his local area.
Aidan also draws silage for a separate contractor during the busy summer period and would bring in approximately 2,000 acres a year. His own business is a small operation with Aidan mostly working alone but he will hire short-term workers when the task requires it.
The company offers a full range of agricultural services including sowing, bailing and tethering hay, mowing, silage, slurry, ploughing and more.
He shares a home with his wife Elaine and his daughter Ava, who is just two years old. “She is our little treasure,” said the doting dad, who took over the operation of his uncle’s farm after he sadly passed away 26 years ago.
“I used to go around the farm with him a lot” recalled Aidan, “I was like a son to him”.
Aidan was one of the first members to join ‘Beef Plan’ along with Hugh Doyle, as one of the founders, Eamon Crowley is his neighbour.
He has been a member of the group for the past four years as the situation on his farm grew tougher. Aidan rears over 100 sucklers but has still found the need to expand into other areas of agriculture in order to support his family.
In another turn of events, Aidan’s farm was put under a ‘compulsory purchase order’ by the government, who wanted to build a motorway, and this split his entire farm in two.
“They gave us a tunnel and underpass, but the tunnel was only 10 x 10 ft, you couldn’t fit a trailer of silage under it or anything,” said the farmer.
However, there is an agricultural purpose road that was laid for use with three other neighbouring farms, and as time has passed, going the kilometre-long round-trip is a situation that the farmers in the area have grown used to.
The contractor has two New Holland tractors, a T7060 and a T6155 and he also drives a Massey Ferguson 6160. His bales are produced with a McHales baler and he also owns a Claas Tedder.
“I like contracting, you’re getting out of the farm for a bit, doing different jobs, meeting various farmers and having the craic with them,” said Aidan, who said that he does enjoy working with his animals, but the instability in the sector can cause a lot of stress.
He finds that working on a different farm for a couple of hours during the day can help to unwind. “It just gets your mindset off the whole beef and cattle thing and the way it is at the moment, because it will put you in bad form for the day,” he admitted.
The Meath man also sells some hay and there has been a bumper crop across Ireland this year, the good-humoured contractor joked, “The country is full of hay and nobody wants it, we’re awash with it” he laughed.
The father of one has ordered a new 3,500-gallon slurry tank with an umbilical system and trailing shoe to start off the new year. His customers are becoming more aware of their emissions and the climate change crisis, which makes this purchase a solid investment for the future.
He is currently operating a 2,250 tanker and agitator, and the contractor is very conscientious about the dangers of working with slurry. “I won’t go near the shed when the agitator is on. I did a safety course recently and the two things they are concerned about is gasses and PTO.”
Commenting on how he feels about agriculture in Ireland, Aidan said that “The beef sector is on its knees at the moment and it’s awful hard for small farms or young farmers. Fingers crossed that it will change.”
He stated that dairying may be the way forward in this country, but he isn’t sure about making that type of commitment.
It seems that Aidan has taken the smart way forward and is using his resources to provide a different revenue stream. As the beef farmers fight their own battles, the Meath man has found a solution that works for him and with a proven ability to adapt, he will continue to succeed.