This week, Kevin speaks to fellow Roscommon-native and Suckler and sheep , David Gibbons. Read his story in full below!
Farm: Suckler, beef finishing and sheep farmer. He also works on a beef finishing farm in Ballintubber.
Strokestown native David Gibbons has been farming as long as he can remember and even made his first livestock purchase at the tender age of four. Now 30 years old, his love for agriculture has developed strongly over the past 26-years.
It is in Strokestown that the young farmer helps his brother, Alan, and his father, Frank, run the family farm. They run a Suckler enterprise, with 40 LM cross cows currently on their books, while they also have a purebred Angus and Shorthorn herd as well. The family-run with an Angus bull and bring any calves born the whole way through as beef. This is run side by side with a number of flocks, one which as a flock of 40 Purebred CH sheep that was set up in 1990.
“We have a purebred Charolais sheep flock and Texel Purebreds as well...Our Charolais flock has been going since 1990”, David said.
The team of three also currently have 130 crossbred ewes on the farm, along with a flock of 10 purebred Texels owned by David. All lambs born on the farm are sold off as finished lambs at local marts. The operation is all run on just over 160-acres in their native county, with David and his brother Alan having recently added 50 newly purchased acres to their ranks.
“My brother and I recently bought 50-acres of land ourselves,”, David informed ThatsFarming.
The family are also keen participants in shows during the hectic summer showing season and have showed their CH flock for years. David himself also dabbles in the showing process, taking part every year. He says this year will be no different and the Charolais flock will hopefully bring the family some success this season.
“We would do ten to fifteen shows every year,”, David explained.
“We show mainly the Charolais sheep, but we do show some cattle as well, mainly crossbred cattle,”, he said.
Farming duties at home are shared between David, his father Frank and his brother Alan, with everyone pitching in. The family also buy a lot of cattle for local farmers, making them regular mart attendees. In fact, David lists the marts as one of his favourite places to go.
“We buy a lot of cattle for customers around the country in marts,”, he said.
Other farming ventures:
If running his own flock and helping run two other flocks and a herd of cattle on his family farm weren’t enough, David also spends half the working week on another beef enterprise.
“I work with a man on a farm in Ballintubber also, three days a week,”, David informed ThatsFarming’s Kevin.
It is here that he works as a farm worker and cattle purchaser, the latter of which is something he also does for himself in his spare time. The farm is a strictly Charolais enterprise, raising heifers and bullocks to finish on roughly 100-acres.
They generally have about 300 head of cattle at any one time and the cattle are finished at varied times. David says some are finished at 30-months, while others are left a further six months. From here, the cattle are sent directly to the factory, Nenagh meats to be specific.
“Good continental cattle can take a bit longer, so we finish some at up to 36-months,”, David explained.
His employer also deals a lot in straw and has done for many years.
David said he never harboured any other dreams in life, than becoming a farmer like his father and grandfather before him. He said since he was “knee-high”, he has always enjoyed the mart-day experience, something which has only developed his interest in agriculture further.
“I always loved the marts…I get to them as much as I can…We go to them all, Roscommon, Elphin, Castlerea, Ballymote and Balla,”, he explained.
The third-generation farmer admits that he never wanted to go to college, instead, he went straight from school to helping out on the home farm. He kept at this for three to four years, until business got slow and he went in search of further employment. David eventually went from selling cattle to selling cars in Roscommon town, before making the return home after a few years.
During this time, David says he was continuously buying cattle for his current employer Michael and upon his departure from a career in car sales, he took a job on Michael’s farm in Ballntubber. David says he finds the cattle a lot easier to be dealing with, rather than cars.
“Selling cars was grand, but I love the cattle…On a Friday at lunchtime I would still find an excuse to go up to the mart”, David laughed.
Cattle-wise, the family have always run with an Angus bull, with David’s father Frank being a long-term member of the Angus Society and the Angus producer group. In fact, Frank was the fourth person to join the Angus producers group upon its formation. His father Frank gained the love for the Angus breed, through his father and David’s grandfather.
One bull raised by the family was recently sold by the family at the recent Angus society sale in Carrick-on-Shannon for €3,000. This was not the only recent success the Gibbons’ had, with the family achieving in getting one of their bulls into Dovea.
“We had a bull in Carrick at the weekend, that we got €3,000 for, in the April Angus sale,”, David said.
“We got one of our bulls into Dovea just after Christmas…That was the Angus bull…We always had Angus around our house here, going back to our grandad who always had Angus as well,”, David explained.
The future looks bright for David and the Gibbons family, with the farming brothers recently having purchased some fifty acres of land. This, David says, will be used to expand his flock of ewes, with 30 crossbreds bought recently.
David hopes over the course of 2018 that he will be able to increase this flock of crossbreds from 30 to 80 head. This will bring the total of sheep to between 200 and 250.
He also plans, as mentioned, to show in the coming year. He says he will not show his Texel flock just yet, as he looks to build up the name first. He will though, be showing one of his crossbred cattle herd this year, as he says he has a nice Limousine cross heifer that will be in the breeding classes this year.
On the sucker side of things, David sees no reason for the family to slow down. He says, regardless of the current negative publicity in the Suckler sector, that the value of a calf born on a farm is too important, something they would not like to lose out on.
“If we had to go out and buy weanlings and heifers to go to beef, it works out as a lot of money. At least when you have your own product coming up, you have it exactly there what it is costing you,”, he said.
David said the cattle buying side of things is always a busy venture for the family and his off-farm work, something he hopes to continue into 2018.
“There are always cattle to be bought for people around,”, he noted.
He says one day he will pass on his farming venture onto his eight-year-old daughter and three-week-old son, though not for a while yet.
Why he loves what he does:
Why does David keep on farming? Well, there are many different reasons.
“If you didn’t love the job you wouldn’t do it,”, David joked.
A mart maniac through and through, David would be the first to admit that he has a bit of an addiction to the mart-day experience. In fact, he lists it among his favourite places to visit and says he would be there every day if could, not just for the cattle but also the social aspect.
“Going to marts is a big thing for me…I would love to go at it seven days a week if I could, but unfortunately it just can’t happen,”, David explained.
“The mart is a massive thing…It’s a love I have had from a young age. I actually bought my first heifer when I was four at Roscommon mart.”, he added.
Not only does he enjoy the buying and selling process, but he also gains great job satisfaction from watching the fruits of his hard labour.
“It’s seeing your own produce growing up and going to shows and maybe getting sold for a good price,”, he said.
“Seeing your cattle growing up as well, that gives you great satisfaction”, he added.
Not happy with just a Suckler enterprise, David has now moved on to running his own flock, keeping a young family and helping finish CH cattle in Ballintubber. The Rossies man will continue to be a fixture in marts across the country, doing what he loves best, farming to his heart’s content.
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