20-year-old Rian Kennedy is the third generation farmer of his family to take charge of the pastures. For as long as the South-Sligo native can remember, he has played an active role in the operation of the family farm, with duties including feeding in-lamb ewes being left in his capable hands from the age of five.
“When I was in Transition Year in secondary school, I had an Agricultural Science class and I knew then that I wanted to study it in college. My father studied Ag. Science in college too, so that also had an influence on me.” Rian Kennedy explained to Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
For half a decade, the Kennedys used to own a pig farm in Cloonacool which contained 280 sows, however; with soaring production costs and long travel distances forced the family to make a switch and since, Rian has joined forces with his father and brother to focus their attention on operating a suckler enterprise and a calf-to-beef system, counting 95 head at present.
Drawn to low RFI numbers; low emissions; and ease of calving, the duo has placed all their faith in Stabilisers, one of the newest cattle breeds to hit Irish soil, with thirteen pedigree Stabilisers, eighteen cross-breds and one pedigree bulls.
“We recently acquired a block of land in Kilasser, Co. Mayo and we plan to run a carbon neutral farm on this land. We searched for the right breed to run on this farm and came to the conclusion that the Stabiliser cattle tick all the right boxes.” Rian said.
The Aberdeen-Angus breed also makes up a core part of the breeding programme, with six pedigree cattle, along with five calves from the 2017 crop. The farm’s calf-to-beef system comprises of Aberdeen-Angus-cross Friesian cattle, with twenty steers and an additional twenty heifers; while a further eleven cross-bred Stabiliser bulls are in a separate calf-to-beef system.
“Our calf-to-beef system is the ABP blade grazing scheme. We are in our second round of the scheme this year and the last of the first round were sold in December. We got great results from it and we hope to finish this round by September.” Rian explained.
Farming is only a fraction of the young Sligo man’s life, who is also studying a full-time degree programme in the capital since 2015 but manages to escape the bright lights to come home every weekend to attend to farming affairs. The third-year Agricultural Science student is majoring in Animal and Crop Production at University College Dublin and will graduate in 2019.
“This was my first choice on the CAO. I selected this course because I researched it online, I attended the open day and my father's experience of the college helped to make the final decision.” Rian said when explaining the reason behind his selection.
“In the second semester of third-year, each student in Animal and Crop Production completes thirty weeks of Professional Work Experience, which I am currently completing. Within this period, the student must complete a minimum of four weeks at all the enterprises with pigs, sheep, beef, dairy and tillage.” Rian explained.
At present, Rian is completing placement on Christopher Tuffy’s grass-based Dairy farm with 150 cows in Doonally, North Sligo. Last summer, Rian was on placement in Devenish Nutrition in Belfast - an Animal nutritionist company, producing feed for ruminants, pigs, poultry, horses and companion animals-; an experience that has also added to his fountain of knowledge.
“While I was there I carried out performance trials on different types of pig feed, both organic and non-organic in both the UK and Ireland. I also conducted an ingredient sample collection for the feeds here in Ireland; these samples were tested using a NIR scanner for their components including crude protein and crude fibre for example.” Rian said.
“I would love study further after I graduate so I can broaden my knowledge of Agriculture. I have a great interest in nutrition and at present, I would like to pursue a career in that area.” Rian said.
Now in third-year, Rian’s main long-term focus is to finish his degree, but later this month, he will travel the oceans to Missouri, US to work for Grassland Dairies LLC, on a grass-based dairy farm for nine weeks, with a desire to also explore the culture and Agriculture in Australia and New Zealand too.
“Having little to no experience in the dairy industry, I decided to get experience both at home and abroad. This way, I will be able to compare the scale, systems, operations and get a broad knowledge of the industry.” Rian explained.
Back home on Irish soil on the farming front, Rian has plans to expand the Aberdeen Angus herd to twenty plus over the next three years by breeding stock inside the farm gate and outsourcing from reputable herds.
“We hope to develop our newly acquired land and expand and develop the stabiliser herd and get the carbon neutral farm up and running and hopefully run trials on the farm. “ Rian concluded.
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