Brendan hails from a beef farm in Ballyoskill near Ballyragget in the North of Kilkenny. It is here he runs a beef farm in a farm partnership with his father.
Together the pair farm just over 170 acres of land, 60 of which were inherited by his father. The other 110 acres has been accumulated by his dad through the years. The home block of land consists of 100 acres of slightly fragmented lands, while 50 acres is located 10 miles down the road and another 20 acres is one mile away.
“Buying 40 acres last year has boosted the farm, allowing for extra output. We bought 25 acres adjoining to us and were renting 15 acres which we then bought privately.It worked out real well for us”, said Brendan.
“He spent his life gathering the farm and we’re only really getting on top of output and trying to get as many cattle through the place in the past couple of years”, he added.
Changes to the farm:
The farm was a suckler herd up until Brendan’s return three years ago, when they used to have just over 30 cows. They decided to change their farm type upon Brendan's return to the farm and with his father’s recent retirement from his fulltime job it seemed like the right time.
They now operate a calf to beef system, where they rear 50 friesian bull calves, castrate them and bring them to steers at 24 months. They also operate a Friesian store system where they buy animals at between 400-450 kgs before finishing them.
Since Brendan’s return home they have gradually increased from killing 60 cattle per year to over 160 this year, with more planned for next year.
“We plan to raise a hundred calves next spring”, said Brendan.
When Brendan got into the farm partnership with his dad, improving was not an easy task, with money tied up in repayments of loans and work. Brendan admits the farm was understocked and underachieving, something he and his father have been gradually building upon.
“This year is by far the most cattle we have ever had, I suppose we’re going in the right direction anyways”, said the farmer.
He was always very interested in the farming side of things, but got seriously involved when he was 17 upon finishing school. It was then, he admits, that he started to look at the industry more seriously.
From school he went onto Kildalton to study a level 5 agriculture course, which he thoroughly enjoyed. From here he was accepted into the level six dairy and beef course. He then received an interview for a place in the Level 7 course in Waterford IT. He passed the interview and was offered a place.
“All I wanted to do was farm...I got offered the place, but I wasn’t going to take it as I just wanted to farm. My mother made me go”, he said.
This is something he is glad of now as upon finishing year 2 and 3 of the Level 7 in WIT he had intended to go onto pursue a level 8 degree. Plans tend to change very quickly in life and Brendan’s life was no different. Between the time when he finished his level 7 and then he had gained part time employment at the local Red Mills merchants, where he now works full time.
He spoke of his pleasure and gratitude to the Connollys for taking him on and his parents for all their support through the years.
Day to day:
Brendans days are quite busy, holding down a fulltime job and keeping up with the daily chores involved in the farm. He spends an hour each morning doing the usual cleaning and maintenance jobs before heading off to work.
His father usually takes care of the herding and dosing duties while Brendan is the man in charge of machinery. This could mean anything from an evening spent topping or even mowing.
His father also helps rear the calves, Brendan says the system they have in place “works well”
Summer months, as is the case for most farmers, are hectic with Brendan having to come straight home from work and out into the fields. These days can go as late as 11pm some nights he admits.
“Morning and evening i’d be out on the farm everyday”, he says.
He is surrounded by dairy discussion groups in his area and admits he is tempted to join one, with an eye to potentially switching to dairy someday.
He is also a member of Macra, though he does not get a lot of time to attend the events. He always makes time to attend the farm walks though, something he finds great benefit from.
“I am a member of Macra and I was a member in college”.
He is also part of a new whatsapp group for young farmers. It is a group where young farmers share ideas and tips as well as information on upcoming events.
He hopes within ten years that by gradually building up numbers, he will be able to leave his job as a merchant and go farming full time. He hopes by then he will be able to make a sustainable living out of it.
He also, as mentioned, is considering a future move to dairy farming. He has gone to a lot of dairy walks and talks and also has had visitors to the farm, but at the moment the priority is paying back loans on the purchased land. The reason behind doubling calf rearing numbers is to help eventually pay back said loans.
“As we get stronger and more on top, we will move away from calf rearing and move onto cattle”, said Brendan.
“The goal for the next five years is to be pushing 1200 kilos of beef a hectare on the farm. We are only on about 750 this year so there is a long way to go”, he said.
Unlike most young farmers, Brendan has found the transition much easier. He has gone about his business cleverly, and has availed of many of the grants on offer to young farmers through the young farmers scheme.
“Everything has been more so in my favour than anything… The challenges are everyday things like weather and prices but as for getting into farming I can only say that I have had the best chances given to me.” he says.
“Without them it would be fierce hard”,
When asked what advice he would give to those looking to farm, Brendan was full of thoughts.
“Try and get a job off the farm for a couple of years”, he said.
This. he says, will open your eyes, even if not on a farm or in an office.
He says it allows you to hear from other farmers and see how other businesses are operated successfully, skills which can be brought back to your own farm. He advised to either travel or get off the home farm and to listen to as many people as you can. He says farm walks and discussion groups are vital for improving practices.
Brendan’s passion for agriculture is infectious and obvious from the get go.
“You can’t beat being your own boss….What I love is when you buy a bullock or rear a calf, watching them develop”,he stated.
He says watching them grow from fully dependent on you to growing up to be big animal brings great joy to him.
“What you get out of it is what you put into it...I think farming is a great way of life”, he concluded.