This week on our Young Series, Kevin speaks to GAA-mad Mayo-man and part-time suckler , Adrian Brennan. Find out more about the by reading below
Name - Adrian Brennan
Age - 30
Farm - Suckler farmer on 64.3 hectares near Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo.
Adrian Brennan has always dreamed of a full-time career as a farmer, though this is one dream yet to be fulfilled.
Hailing from near Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, Adrian farms a suckler herd with his uncle Martin on 64.3 hectares in total. A kitchen fitter by trade, Adrian works every day with his father fitting kitchens, with evenings spent on the farm. Adrian actually studied Furniture production and manufacturing in the nearby GMIT Letterfrack. From here he began work with his father, Michael, work which he continues to this day.
“I’m a kitchen man by trade...I work full-time with my father,”, Adrian explained.
The Farm -
As mentioned Adrian and his uncle run a suckler farm in their native Mayo, making Adrian a fourth-generation farmer.
The pair entered joined herds approximately two years ago, before entering into a farm partnership a matter of weeks ago. Together, Adrian and his uncle run a 54-strong suckler herd, whilst also running a small-scale calf to weanling system.
“We run a suckler and calf to weanling system. What we have done this year is bought 5-6 bucket fed calves as replacement heifers,”, Adrian noted.
“Last year we calved down 32-cows, we have 49 calved at the moment this year, with five heifers to calf in the back end,”, he added.
The farming pair keep a closed farm, breeding what they need from their existing stock.
“We keep a closed farm. We try to breed enough out of our own”, Adrian said.
The farm ran with a Belgian Blue bull up until last year, with many BBX cattle found amongst the herd, though the farm still features an array of continental cross-breed cattle. The herd has a significant dairy influence, with Adrian and his uncle preferring dairy cross cows for raising calves, due to their excellent milking abilities and ability to raise a second calf if needed.
“We have a few Blue cross cows for breeding with the Limousines. We have a few black Limousines as well...We have a nice variety”, Adrian explained.
“Most of our cattle have a dairy background...We buy them in and keep the heifers then off them cows...Milk is very important to us and that’s why we go for the dairy strain in our cows”, Adrian added.
Farming 54 cows on 64.36 hectares (Over 156-acres) of land may seem ideal, though it does present certain challenges for the farming pair. Their land is spread between areas such as Cloonfad, Ballyhaunis and other surrounding areas, making even checking the herd a task in itself.
“Our biggest problem is that our farm is all over the place. We have five acres here and six acres there, which makes it very hard.”, Adrian admitted.
“We don’t have a block of land...It’s a wide area,”, he added.
Adrian admits that without his uncle, Martin, taking control of the herd on a day-to-day basis that he would not be able to run the farm.
“I would be lost without him...I do the donkey work and he checks the cattle...It’s a good system we have”, Adrian laughed.
“Some weeks I am not able to see the cattle at all until the weekends, because of being busy at work,”, he added.
As mentioned Adrian juggles his full-time job as a kitchen fitter and the farmwork, though it was always his dream to go farming full-time. Adrian’s confirmed his return back to farming with the completion of a Green Cert in 2015, which was completed online.
“I would have love to have gone farming full-time, but financially and the way the farm is spread all over the place, it is not viable at this moment in my life.”, he noted.
“It’s just not financially viable. I have looked it over in the books over the past two or three years that I have been involved and it is only breaking even...It’s a tough market”, Adrian added.
Coping with dispersed lands and other farm practices -
To help their system cope with the lands being spread so far apart, Adrian and Martin have three bulls as part of their system.
“We have two LM bulls and we are after buying a young CH bull this year, to change over from the Blues.”, he said.
“There just wasn’t the same calling for the Blues like there was the last few years, so we are going down the Charolais line,”, he added.
Having three bulls allows Adrian and Martin to split the herd into three groups, meaning they are not reliant on having a large parcel of land in the one area and can make use of their dispersed lands.
Adrian is the man responsible for slurry spreading on the farm, with the rest of the contracting duties carried out by a local contractor. Calves are bucket-fed on the farm twice a day, while weanlings are usually sold at approximately 400kgs.
“We usually keep our Weanlings, feeding them over the winter, until spring when we sell them at an average weight of 400kgs,”, Adrian said.
These consist of both heifer and bull weanlings and some of the lighter weanling bulls are squeezed and kept for a further year, though only a handful.
“We keep a few of the lighter bulls and squeeze maybe two or three a year. We then keep them on for a year and a half,”, he said.
The farm is also apart of the GLAS scheme, with bird and bee cover finished and bat boxes already installed.
“We have all of that done, thankfully,”, Adrian said.
Although it now seems like a dream, Adrian still holds hope of farming on a full-time basis. Admitting it will be difficult, he still feels this is a real possibility at some point in the future and is something he still aims for to this day.
“I would love to give farming a go for ten years, to see if I could make a living out of it,”, he said.
Upon joining forces with his uncle, Adrian helped increase the Suckler herd from 32 to 54, though in the short term Adrian aims to keep the herd as it is for the next few years, with only minor increases in numbers.
In the longer term, Adrian admits that housing, or a lack of, is the main problem on the farm. This is something he and his Uncle Martin will have to look into the over the coming twelve months, should they want to retain current numbers.
“I will have a problem this winter with housing. We will have to sell some of our weanlings,”, he admitted.
“I am going to have to consider putting up a shed within the next year if I am to keep the number at over 50 cows,”, Adrian noted.
He says this may also enable him to change his enterprise to a cattle finishing system, something he is considering and which would work better with his full-time employment.
“I’m considering finishing cattle...I read on the ICBF site that some of our bull weanlings are killed three to four months after they leave the farm, at just under 16-months,”, he noted.
“For the sake of two or three months more, it might be viable to keep them on and finish them ourselves...I might even go down the line of having a few less cows, buying stores and finishing them,”, he added.
Another option for the farming pair, should land become available, is to look into taking on land which is closer together, though Adrian admits land is hard to come by in their area at the moment.
Why he loves AG -
A job he dreamed of since a young age, there are not too many aspects of the industry which he doesn’t enjoy.
“I love the lifestyle…being out in the fresh air, there is nothing better,”, Adrian told That'sFarming's Kevin.
“I would love to be out every day, fencing or spreading fertilizer...I would do it all if I was full-time,”, he added.
A true outdoorsman, Adrian says he even enjoys early mornings checking his stock.
“I’m an outside person. That side of life has always appealed to me. The fresh air, dealing with cattle and dosing. I just love it...It’s a great way of life”, he concluded.
A man driven by his determination to do what he loves 24/7, Adrian Brennan is a suckler farmer through and through, and what the industry is all about. Unwaivered by any challenge, there is no doubt he will someday ditch his career in kitchens and finally fulfill his dream of handling stock and farming on a full-time, day-to-day basis.