“Farming is in the blood” claims suckler and sheep farmer and third-level student, Martin Merrick, a native of Crossmolina, Co. Mayo.
It was only a natural progression for Martin to embrace his striking passion for Agriculture, as he hails from a family that has always had a strong association with farming, now spanning at least three generations.
Martin’s father farmed on a full-time basis until 2002; however, land fragmentation forced the dispersal of the family-run dairy herd and a change in farming practices - this major move allowed the Merricks to focus on their pedigree Charolais herd which ran alongside the dairy herd for years. In the Charolais cattle circles, their first victory came in the form of Ballinagrogy Joe, who went under the hammer in 1992 for 3,000 guineas, respectively.
Sucklers & Sheep
Today, the Merricks own and manage a beef suckler and sheep enterprise on Mayo soil. Ten pedigree Charolais breeding females; six commercial crossbred cows and followers along with a 100-ewe commercial flock dominate the pastures.
“We run a split calving herd - 60% in Spring and 40% in the Autumn. We are 100% AI and have always been. I have completed an AI course with GENEX, so I AI all the cows.”
“We are trying to use the top genetics and we do cast an eye over the €uro-star indexes and calving difficulties, but for me, it’s all about the bloodlines of the bulls.” Martin outlined.
On the sheep front, approximately, fifty Lanark ewes are crossed with a Bluefaced Leicester ram in a bid to breed replacement females, while the remainder of the flock consists of Mules and these are bred to high-end terminal sires - Suffolk and Charollais rams, with a view to finishing all progeny on the farm.
While the Merricks have always dabbled in showing, Ballinagrogy Martina, sired by Rancard proved to be their most successful home-bred animal to date with her unforgettable and unstoppable show career in 2016.
“She was unbeaten with the exception of one show in 2016. She was five times Charolais champion and she later took the Western Heifer Calf championship and Champion Charolais at Enniscrone Show.”
“We brought her to 2016 National Show in Elphin and she took first-prize,” Martin explained.
The herd’s victorious winning streak continued well in 2017, as Martina’s stable-mates, Meadbh, a Ballinagrogy Deirdre daughter, sired by Alwent Golbar (ET) followed in hot pursuit with a similar track record and claimed first-prize in the heifer born on/between January, 1st-2016 and August, 31st, 2016 category.
In terms of the 2018 show calendar, Martin is stepping into the show ring with two commercial ET calves, with embryos sourced from Eddie Lynch - a son of BYU and an EPI bull calf.
“We hope to show these throughout the summer. We started off by securing first-prize at Newmarket-on-Fergus Agricultural show and hope to exhibit at Longford or Enniscrone, with intentions to hit ten shows for the year.”
“We also have a pedigree Charolais heifer which we hope to show along with the two commercial calves.” Martin outlined.
Martin juggles farming commitments with a full-time third-level degree programme. He is currently studying a level-eight Agricultural Science - Animal Crop and Production degree programme at University College Dublin (UCD) - which was the second choice on his CAO.
“I had two courses on my CAO - Veterinary Medicine was first, followed by Agricultural Science.”
“My knowledge of my current course was very limited and I went in without knowing what it was going to entail, but it was definitely that the best decision that I have have ever made.” Martin stressed.
Martin is also a member of UCD’s AgSociety and was part of fundraising initiative that saw the group of students raise €60,000 for two chosen charities.
As part of his studies, Martin ventured to the farm of John Sheridan, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo to commence his Professional Work Module and then went to the farm of renowned Charolais breeder, Alan Woods, Crossmolina, Co. Mayo.
From there, Martin worked on the holding of previous FBD/ Macra na Feirme Young Farmer of the Year Award winner, Sean O’ Donnell and he is now based at the Teagasc Advisory Office, Ballina, Co. Mayo, where his work focuses on KT discussion groups.
Looking forward to the future, Martin relishes the idea of combining his passion for Bovine Genetics or Beef Genomics with his world-renowned Agricultural degree.
He has a desire to explore the trials that are ongoing on some of Ireland’s leading research farms and would not rule out further study of the beef or sheep sector with Teagasc, such as a Masters or a PhD. A trip across waters to large-scale beef or sheep stations in New Zealand or Australia is also on the Mayo student’s bucket list.
“My vision of becoming of a vet is gone completely out of my head. The career prospects for holders of this broad degree is phenomenal.”
“Agriculture is an exciting sector to work in and I am looking forward to the future that lies ahead,” Martin concluded.
Image Source: Alfie Shaw
If you are an Agriculture/Agricultural Science/Veterinary Medicine or Veterinary Nursing student and you want to share your story, get in touch - email firstname.lastname@example.org - and you may just be featured on That’s Farming next week.