Leading Agricultural ambassador Libby Clarke is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
The Magheralin native is a cattle breeder, approved cattle judge, a long-time stalwart of Balmoral Agricultural show, an estate agent and a mother of two children.
The powerful lady in Agriculture is always to be found at a livestock sale, an Agricultural show or on the farm.
It is no wonder that Libby Clarke is a name of familiarity for many, north and south of the island and even across the waters.
A Natural Progression
Hailing from a strong Agricultural background left no trace in Libby’s mind when it came to carving out a future career path.
“I grew up with farming and I was always to be found on the heels of my Dad as soon as I could keep up with him.” Libby told That’s Farming.
The Clarke family are no strangers to the Agricultural world and were owners of a livestock sales yard for many years.
It was a natural progression for Libby to start her own farming adventure and from humble beginnings to becoming an exceptional figure in the Agricultural circles; Libby has come a long way from the start of her career.
The family farm now sits on 120 acres, with a particular focus on operating a suckler farming enterprise.
The farm is home to a prize-winning herd of exceptional pedigree Charolais and pedigree Beef Shorthorn cattle.
A number of top-end commercial cattle also dominate the pastures of the farm based in Magheralin.
The Clarke family started farming pedigree Charolais cattle in the 1960’s and the same breeding philosophy still stands, all these decades last.
Libby takes great pride in the fact that the current breeding females of the herd can be traced back to the first ever cows that kick-started the Charolais cattle breeding journey.
Beef Shorthorn cattle also grabbed the attention of the Clarke family close to twenty-five years ago and Libby admits that it feels like this breeding venture is only in its infancy on their family farm.
The high-health status herd has remained closed for many years, with very few livestock coming from the other side of the farm gate.
In bid to secure a number of Shorthorn cow families, Tom Staunton’s online sale garnered Libby’s attention and as recent as last year, a number of females were purchased as additions to the Maralin herd.
“As someone who is working full-time off the farm and managing on my own, I have to say that the Shorthorn cattle are very easy to manage. I also take great pride in my Charolais herd of cattle, but with such a demand for Shorthorns, particularly with the females being in such demand at the moment, it makes you turn your attention to them in particular There is a place for both breeds on my farm.” Libby explained.
Society and Media Involvements
As an avid lover of Charolais and Shorthorn cattle, Libby has also dedicated notable energy, effort and time to the breed societies in question.
She is possibly best known for tapping forward champions, as an approved judge for both societies.
Her involvements in Northern Ireland Charolais Club has seen Libby uptake many positions right up to the vice-chairperson seat.
She is also listed as an official approved judge for Northern Ireland Charolais Club and has even ventured across the water to have judging duties left in her capable hands at Perth Show.
She also travelled to Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal in the 2016 calendar for Charolais cattle judging commitments.
Ms. Clarke recently travelled to Tullamore AIB and AIB National Livestock Show a number of weeks ago to tap forward the winners of the Beef Shorthorn cattle classes.
“Over the past two decades, I have been honoured to judge cattle north and south, both Charolais and Shorthorn. I was judging at Carlisle a number of years ago too. It gives me great satisfaction.” Libby explained.
Libby is also no stranger to the media circles and is at the centre of the organisation of manycattle sales.
Her responsibilities are not limited to publicity and catalogue preparation.
“I do quite a bit of PR and article for the press on an ad hoc basis. Just in case I had any spare time. I enjoy doing this and building interest pre-sale and then following up on the success story!” Libby explained.
When asked about her highpoint in the Agricultural sector so far, Libby draws attention to her experience the other side of the show ring.
Scooping Reserve Champion Charolais at Highland Show a number of years ago is a milestone that Libby will not be forgetting anytime soon.
However the success does not stop here as Libby’s herd continues to sky-rocket to success.
Following on their heels, the Beef Shorthorn front of the herd has also celebrated very similar success, taking home the Reserve Junior Champion silverware for a young bull bred on the farm.
Libby’s cattle have left their mark in the cattle showing circles for well over a decade now, including the Overall Junior Champion and Reserve Female Champion Shorthorn.
As a stockwoman and judge, Libby is also a Balmoral Show stalwart.
“I try to do whatever I can for Balmoral show, anything up to three times a month, all year round. I have held many positions including chairperson of many divisions and I have been the commentator for the cattle section of the show. I believe that you should do one thing and do it well.” Libby said.
Women in Ag
When asked about the involvement of Women in Agriculture, Libby has nothing but positive words to share.
“If you look around a show ring or a mart ring, there are women to be found in every corner. While it most certainly might not be in the majority of places yet, people are starting to take it on board. Quite often it is the women that are the ones working to pay the bills.” Libby said.
When asked about the potential value that Women bring to the Agricultural field, Libby has already pinpointed a number of valuable assets.
“When it comes to animal husbandry, I think women are in a league of their own. We tend to have very close attention to detail and spend an extra number of minutes in the shed when feeding for example. The nurturing talent of a woman’s nature and our time efficiency also shines through when farming.” Libby said.
Wise Words of Wisdom
Libby successful juggles farming life, off-farm employment and parenthood, meaning that she is the ideal candidate to give advice to young aspiring females that want to take the plunge into Agriculture.
“My advice is to know exactly what you are getting into and what exactly you can get out of it financially. You need to be able to keep the wheels turning and if your farm isn’t big enough to do that, you need to have a back-up plan. The identification of a farming system that you can manage is paramount. ” Libby said.
Striking a balance
Libby believes that part-time farming is a particular option for many women like her and it allows for a lifestyle balance.
Many can acknowledge that Libby follows a rather jam-packed agenda in order to manage her well-respected cattle herd, but she also works full-time off-time as an Estate Agent, selling a vast portfolio of Agricultural land and residential properties.
The Bright Future
The future will continue to shine bright for Libby Clarke as her two daughters step up to the mark to learn the ropes.
Libby’s sheer passion for Agriculture is rubbing off on her young farmers and she is doing everything in her will-power to encourage their interest to snowball.
“At the weekend, they are going to purchase their own sheep with their own money. I’m going to take my foot off the pedal on what I want and allow us to do everything more as a team. I want them to feel like they are involved and that they have an input going forward.” Libby concluded.
If you are a Woman in Ag and want to share your story, get in touch.