On our ‘Young Farmer’ series, Kevin talks to a Roscommon native who is an A.I Technician and sheep, beef and suckler farmer, Mr. Colin McLoughlin. Read his story in full below.
Name - Colin McLoughlin
Age - 28
Farm - Sheep, Suckler and beef finishing farmer.
Born and raised near Tibohine in Co. Roscommon, Colin McLoughlin has been involved in agriculture for what is now the majority of his 28 years.
The soon-to-be father of two and husband of one originates from a family of suckler and sheep farmers, with his father, James, having always kept livestock. James had kept sheep at one stage, before changing his system and gearing it more towards the suckler herd and beef cattle.
“My father is a butcher all of his life and has been farming too, that is sort of how we got into it”, Colin explained to That’sFarming’s Kevin.
“Between the two of us, we split the farming duties...My dad used to keep a lot of sheep one time, but he got out of them eventually.” he added.
Together Colin and his father now run a herd of suckler cows side-by-side, while also fattening breeding heifers and finishing young bulls and bullocks for slaughter. This is not where Colin’s foray into agriculture ends either, as he also runs his own flock, works in Aurivo in Ballaghaderreen and is an A.I. technician for Bova A.I.
“It was always a career in agriculture I wanted.”, he stated.
Colin admits that he is still lucky to be involved within the industry and alive after a recent slurry agitating accident on his farm saw him lose a number of cattle and nearly his own life. The farmer was getting slurry emptied from his farm when he got a call to say a number of his stock had fallen due to fumes. Upon arrival, Colin entered the housing facilities and almost immediately collapsed due to the toxic fumes. Thankfully, however, he lived to tell the tale but warned others of the dangers associated with farming.
“I was very lucky.” he advised.
Journey in agriculture to date -
Having always had a grá for the industry, Colin’s official journey began with agriculture upon completing a green certificate in Mountbellew Agricultural college back in 2007/2008. This set Colin on a career path, where agriculture is the one and only subject.
“When I started farming we got a bit more intensive. I started farming myself in 2008.” said Colin.
Following the completion of his green cert, Colin went onto purchase some land in his home county in 2011, while also renting some further land, but only after working as a boner in Dawn Meats for a four year period from 2008.
Colin only farms part-time at present, as he also has two other jobs on the go, both in agriculture. He works off-farm during the days with Aurivo in Ballaghaderreen, where he operates one of the driers.
“I work off-farm in Aurivo Dairy Ingredients in Ballaghaderreen.” he said.
“I operate the driers, as we dry powder milk.” he continued.
Colin’s other job sees him spending his evenings and any spare time working as an A.I. Technician for Bova A.I.
“I would be doing in the region of 800-900 cows per year. I cover maybe a 15-mile radius from my home base.” he noted.
Colin’s A.I. journey began over ten years ago in 2007 when he started carrying out Artificial Insemination “D.I.Y” style. He then carried out a training course with Jimmy Quinn at Meadow Meats in Rathdowney.
“I also run a vasectomised bull business as well, where I sell them and lease them.” Colin told Kevin.
“I raise the bulls myself, mainly Friesian, and they normally go for sale or hire. This time of the year I usually sell them off if someone is interested, or if not, I run them on for finishing.” he adds.
Picture below of the teaser team.
Farm System -
As mentioned, the McLoughlins run a herd which is a mixture of beef and suckler cattle and this is run on their 220-acre holding.
“I am farming on my own about 110-acres and my father is farming roughly the same.” Colin noted.
“My father breeds a few pedigree Blonds as well.” said Colin.
The McLoughlin’s entire herd consists of approximately 170 cattle, all varying from Charolais, Limousine and Belgian Blue breeds. In the suckler herd, Colin has 19 suckler cows of his own, while his father calved down 27 this year. The rest of the herd is made up of breeding heifers and young bulls and bullocks for beef.
“We finish the young bulls and bullocks ourselves. We finish the bulls usually anywhere between 18-24 months” he noted.
“I supply a few local butchers with heifers as well and lambs too.” Colin said.
When it comes to breeding on the farm, the first round of A.I. is carried out by Colin in the sheds, with teasers. He then A.I’s for a 5-6 week period outside with teasers, with a few stock bulls let in afterwards to mop up. Calving on the farm is carried out in two intervals, in Autumn and Spring.
“We calf about 35-40% of them in Autumn and the rest are all spring calving”, he explained.
Grazing-wise, the McLoughin’s use a paddock system for the young bulls and bullocks. This is done to ensure they thrive and always have fresh grass in front of them. For cows with older calves, they are grazed in a block system and changed to a new block every 10-12 days. Cows with younger calves are then grazed in an almost paddock-like system, moved once a week.
Sheep Enterprise -
If running both a suckler and beef herd was not strenuous enough, Colin also runs his own flock of sheep.
“I keep a flock of pedigree sheep as well...It is just myself that keeps the sheep.” Colin said.
Colin focuses his sheep interests on the Texel and Beltex breeds, keeping approximately 25 sheep in total.
“I have about seven or eight crossbred ewes and the rest are all pedigrees.” Colin explained.
Colin's main market for his sheep comes via home sales, while lambing is carried out between Mid-January and mid-February to ensure ram lambs are ready for sale in the early Spring markets.
“I sell the purebred rams at home. A lot of my sales would be from repeat customers.” he noted.
“I normally kill the commercial lambs with a local butcher, for the Spring market.” he continued.
Future Aspirations -
One future hope for Colin is that someday he may fulfil his childhood dream of farming on a full-time basis, but not until he is sure that it is viable for him and his young family.
“I would love to be a full-time farmer but it is just not viable at the moment with the family”, Colin explained.
Colin is also getting married this coming October, meaning he will be busy in planning mode, while he also has a second child on the way. This will not deter him from improving his farm system and adding to his flock though, something he hopes to continue over the coming twelve months. He recently purchased a pedigree Texel ram off Ronan Gallagher to put with his pedigree ewes, with the aim of going fully pedigree and improving the genetics of his flock.
“I am going to add a bit to the flock of texels and I am going to go all pedigree eventually.” said the Young Farmer.
“You are always looking at improvement...I will keep a few Beltex as well, I intend to keep going with both breeds. I might try and move to 35 pedigree sheep altogether” he noted.
With regards to A.I. and breeding within his suckler herd, Colin will look to move towards producing more export-quality calves rather than store-types. He aims to keep suckler numbers steady over the coming year and between the 40-45 mark.
“We will probably continue with the same system we are at with the beef and sucklers.” Colin told That’sFarming.
“My father said he might cut down on cow numbers and focus more on the bull beef...We will probably go for a more of a higher quality bull than we are feeding now. We are feeding O and R grades at the minute...We also might try and run the later calves on for beef instead of shifting them as weanlings.” he continued.
Pictured below is Colin with his newly purchased pedigree ram
Why Ag -
Some hypothesise that you are either born a farmer or you’re not and Colin would be one to prove this theory.
After receiving a taste of the sector at a young age, there was never any alternative for the Roscommon man but a long career within the industry and this is evident through Colin’s sheer passion for all things agriculture related. He is driven by the freedom of being his own boss, as well as being an avid outdoorsman and simply loves all aspect of the industry.
“You come and go as you please and you do your own thing. You make your own choices and if it goes wrong it goes wrong, if it goes right then it goes right.” he said.
“Personally, farming is a healthy lifestyle for any family. It is a dangerous lifestyle, but a healthy lifestyle.” he concluded.
A dedicated and passionate farmer, Colin somehow manages to juggle a suckler, beef, and sheep farming enterprise with an off-farm job, A.I. work and a young family. The Tibohine man is the definition of an Irish farmer and no doubt, he will someday fulfil a lifetime dream and embark on the full-time farming career he craves so much.
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