Based out of near Westport in Co. Mayo, Luke Garavan runs the Carrowholly herd and has an agricultural heritage spanning back many generations. Luke himself is the 6th or 7th generation farmer amongst his family, such is the Garavan’s experience within the industry.
At the minute, Farming duties are carried out on a part-time basis. Duties are split between Luke’s father, Stevie, and Luke himself. It is together that they run a suckler enterprise, comprising of approximately 20 cattle, all varying in breeds from Charolais to Limousine and Angus, though mainly limousines. They had once though run their own dairy enterprise, only changing to a suckler system approximately three-generations ago.
“We are Suckler farming, with about twenty cattle…We were dairy farming, about three-generations ago” Luke explained to That’sFarming.
“We run mainly Limousine. We have a few crossbreds and some pedigrees as well.” Luke noted.
Not only this, but Luke and his father also bring calves to weanlings on their Mayo farm.
“We have our own stock bull and we finish calves all the way up until September.” He said.
“The stock bull is a purebred, registered Limousine.” Luke continued.
Luke and his father are also members of the BDGP programme and the family lay the claim of having cows, all of which are rated four stars or more.
“We don’t have any cows below four stars.” Luke stated.
The farm also lays the claim of being "very clean" and has never succumb to TB or BVD.
As mentioned, Luke and his father are running a herd of approximately 20 Sucklers on their home farm, with all running with a LM stock bull.
They also raise calves to weanlings on the farm, with calves let out in early March, put into different grazing paddocks and fed meal.
“Every four weeks they get a booster as well”, Luke said.
These calves are then kept until September, when they are sold off as weanlings in their local Balla mart or via DoneDeal. Any calves born later than usual, are kept on the farm for fattening for an extra month.
With regards to breeding on the farm, the cows are all served by the LM stock bull. AI is only ever used on a rare occasion, for repeating cows. The family usually go for ‘ZAG’ and other LM breeds when using A.I. When looking at replacement heifers, the family generally keep an average of two of their own heifers each year.
“Up until this year we used to keep two of our heifers (as replacements),” Luke said.
“We are going to stop that this year now, as we had difficulties last year calving our two heifers.” He added.
Breeding is of paramount importance for the Garavans and they always aim to produce a high-quality Limousine cow with “plenty of meat on her” and a good bag of milk. Docility is also another key trait that the father and son duo look out for when breeding replacements, as their cattle have to cross numerous roads when being moved from paddock to paddock.
“They have to be quite docile.” He said.
As mentioned the farm is run on a part-time basis, with Luke’s father working in Construction. This means that Luke is more-or-less full-time on the home farm, taking care of farming duties in his father’s absence.
With regards to the future of the Carrowholly herd, improvement is the main focus on the Mayo farm.
Luke hopes to increase the family’s land holding over the coming years, which will in turn enable them to buy more stock and increase their herd size and may some day enable him to fulfil his dream of farming viably on a full-time basis.
“I’d like to buy more land and get more stock.” Said the farmer.
“I should then be able to make a full-time job out of it and make a living off it” Luke explained.
Although a loyal Limousine follower and enthusiast, Luke says the herd may experiment more with CH genetics over the coming twelve months.
“I am very happy with the Limousine at the moment. I really like them, they are great cows.” Luke noted.
“I wouldn’t mind having a few Charolais for beef,” he said.
One other major change which may occur on the Garavan’s Westport farm in the coming years, is the transition from a suckler system to a cattle finishing system, something they are seriously considering.
“It is very difficult to make money out of suckling nowadays.” said Luke.
“They (the department) are going to have to do something, improve prices or something for the small farmer. If they don’t, then we are as well to pack up.” Luke advised.
This would not mark the Garavan’s first try at finishing cattle, as when the farm was a dairy operation, all calves were kept and then finished on the farm. This is something the young Mayo farmer hopes to begin within the next decade, once he takes the reins and full control.
“I would be hoping by the time I get the farm, we will have decided whether or not to keep suckling”, he noted.
Luke also hopes to complete his green certificate at some stage over the coming years, though nothing is decided yet. He hopes to complete this on a part-time basis, which will enable him to still retain a heavy influence on the home farm. As well as wanting to be a farmer on a full-time basis, Luke also hopes to get involved in agricultural mechanics at some stage or engineering, possibly within the next five years.
“If we increased the farm then we might be able to go into contracting and the agricultural mechanics would come in handy then.” Said Luke.
Why Ag -
Born and raised into a household with a strong passion for the industry, it was probably always inevitable that Luke would end up farming at home in Westport, Co. Mayo.
A farmer through and through, there is nothing else that Luke would rather do in life.
“I would love to be a full-time farmer.” He said.
Although the dream of farming full-time may be a bit away for Luke just yet, there is no doubt he will continue his hard work for the Carrowholly herd and eventually fulfil his childhood dream.