A Carlow man originally, Eddie Gavin actually runs his farming enterprise just across the border in Co. Kilkenny.
He hails from near Bagenalstown in the Barrowsider county that is Carlow and the farm he now runs was first originally farmed by his grandfather, John, before Eddie’s father, Eamon, eventually took the reins. Eamon was eventually joined on the farm in Kilkenny by Eddie, who now works there alongside his father to this day.
Eddie now runs not only his own tillage operation, but also his own flock of sheep, calf-rearing enterprise and contracting business. The family only got back into beef approximately 4-5 years ago, after shifting their focus to the sheep and tillage side of things.
“My father got out of beef in the late 80’s,” Eddie told Kevin of That’sFarming.
“He concentrated more on tillage. We were mainly tillage and sheep,” Eddie said.
This changed upon Eddie’s return home and approximately five years ago they began taking on 30-40 dairy-born calves every year. He only this year began finishing them himself and generally sticks to Angus-Friesian bred stock.
“In the last 15 years I increased the sheep (numbers) and in the last five years we got back into rearing calves.” He said.
“We buy in 30-40 calves every year. This is the first year we brought them to bull beef,” Eddie added.
The recently married 36-year-old also runs his own contracting enterprise, focusing his efforts on hedge-cutting services.
“I do hire work as well, mainly hedge-cutting.” Eddie said.
“I do a lot of hedgecutting, approximately 1,000 hours a year…We do a bit of baling, wrapping and sow corn as well” he continued.
The family also keep their own land for tillage purposes, keeping approximately 200-acres in total. He also keeps 350 sheep in total, meaning he is kept very busy.
Eddie’s Journey -
According to Eddie, the passion he now has for agriculture was one first developed in primary school. It was during these years that an addiction was born and the Carlow man actually began his own flock when he was in his early teens.
“From Primary school, it was always farming, farming, farming,” said Eddie.
“I always just had a fierce interest in sheep. I would have bought my own few sheep when I was 14 or 15,” he added.
Keen to return home at the earliest convenience, Eddie first took in a trip to Kildalton Agricultural college after completing his Leaving Certificate. Here he studied a one-year course, before taking on a three-month work-placement role with a family in Co. Wexford.
“I went to Kildalton in 1999/2000.” Eddie noted.
“It was a one-year course, then you had to go on placement for three months. I went down to the Cashe family in Blackwater, Co. Wexford.”
This, Eddie says, more than prepared him for the real world of agriculture and following his role in Co. Wexford he then began working part-time with a farmer in his native county in a bid to gain more experience. This was before the family bought their own machinery to begin their contracting enterprise.
“I then worked part-time with a local farmer for a couple of years, until we bought our own machinery for sowing corn.” Eddie said.
It was after this period of working with this neighbouring farmer, that Eddie’s contracting venture began to really take off. It all started with the purchase of a solitary hedge-cutter from a former employer and the rest, as they say, is history. At the time there were no other hedge-cutter in operation locally, meaning Eddie simply took on his former employer’s work.
“I used to do a bit of driving for a man here and then he emigrated to Australia and I bought a hedge-cutter off him.” Eddie said.
“That’s how I started hedge-cutting in 2001…There was no other hedge-cutter locally at the time” he adds.
The System -
Eddie runs his farming systems with the help of his father, Eamon, who is the man responsible for herding duties on the Kilkenny farm. Eamon also helps out with contracting duties when needed. Eddie's brother, James, also lends a helping hand at the harvest during the summer and at weekends too.
“He (Eddie's father) does the ploughing and draws for the corn, baling and that kind of work.” Eddie said to Kevin.
“He is a great help I would be lost without him.” He noted.
All-in all, the Gavin family run their farming systems on 300-acres in total. The family own 200-acres in total, 110-acres of which is kept as grassland and the remaining 90-acres kept for tillage. The other 100-acres is mainly kept for tillage purposes, with only 10-acres kept for grass. The family always reseed their oldest pastures, with soil samples taken from one third of the land every year.
“Most of the ground is together.” said the farmer.
"We are always reseeding. The oldest grass is eight years old and we soil sample one-third of the farm every year." Eddie added.
The tillage side of operations run by the family is mainly focused on Spring and Winter Barley crops. They grow winter barley as they can then grow stubble turnips or fodder rape early for their sheep and cattle. This is usually followed by Spring barley afterwards.
“Spring and Winter barley are the main crops and sometimes we might sow some oats as a break crop,” said Eddie.
“We sowed 44-acres of stubble turnip (this year) and we sowed 6-acres of fodder rape.”
Any Spring or Winter Barley crops grown on the Kilkenny farm are usually sold to their local Red Mills.
“It is nearly as handy to buy it back fresh.” Eddie stated.
Sheep-wise, Eddie and the Gavin family keep 350 sheep in total, 325 ewes and 25 ewe lambs. The family tend to focus onTexel and Suffolk crossbred sheep, having previously also kept Lleyn-types. Eddie and the family aim to produce Lambs for sale in around May.
“I had a good few purebred Lleyn ewes, but I wasn’t that fond of them.” Said the farmer.
“I keep mainly Texel and Suffolk crosses, but I did buy two Belclare rams this year to bring up the lambing percentage. This year I have a brilliant lambing percentage, so I don’t need them,” he laughed.
The 36-year-old farmer introduced the Belclare rams to 45 ewes this year, meaning he will have Belclare genetics running through the flock by lambing season. Lambing is usually split into two batches on the farm, with the majority of ewes lambed from the end of February to the 1st of March. The rest are lambed in a two-week period less than a month later.
“We try to have a lot of them done by Paddy’s Day.” Eddie told Kevin.
“As in an early year, you will be sowing corn around Paddy’s day or the 20th of March. We usually try to have most of them done by then.”
Grazing on the farm is conducted in a paddock to paddock system and Eddie’s farm actually held a grass walk just last year as part of the Teagasc Grass 10 initiative.
“We held a grass walk last year on paddock grazing for sheep.” Eddie explained.
Eddie runs his hedge-cutting venture with a McConnel twin rotary head hedge-cutter, covering within a 15-mile radius of his home. This business venture keeps him busy throughout the day, with the 36-year-old usually working 10-hour days during peak-hedge-cutting and contracting season.
“I have a twin-head hedge-cutter,” Eddie said.
“I am able to do a lot more work in the hour, I’d say 40% (more work),” He added.
The calf rearing enterprise, as mentioned, sees the Gavin family rearing 30-40 dairy born bull calves. They only this year began keeping the stock for finishing themselves.
Future hopes -
In the short term, Eddie has a very busy period ahead of him as he and his wife Laura are about to welcome their first child to the world.
Farming-wise, Eddie admits that he is likely to push and try to increase cattle numbers further on the farm.
“I will probably increase the cattle (numbers).” Eddie noted.
“But it all depends on how the cattle thing goes. I like working with cattle and I like working with sheep.”
In terms of the tillage enterprise, Eddie aims to assert a better plan of action over the coming months and hopes to put in a better crop rotation system. He admits that although he may move back into beet production as a fodder crop, he may also scale back on the tillage to focus more on grass production.
“I hope to put a little bit better of a rotation in.” Eddie said of his tillage enterprise.
“I could see myself scaling back out of the tillage and getting more into the grass…I won’t be going all tillage anyway” He laughed.
This would then, in turn, allow the Gavin family to increase their stock numbers even further in the coming years. The changes may not end there either, as a new enterprise which Eddie is also contemplating getting involved in 2019 is contract rearing.
“One farmer was onto me this year to start (contract rearing), but I wasn’t really set up for it.” Eddie stated.
“If I don’t get more into cows, I probably will look at that. If I don’t keep doing what I’m doing with the calves and bulls.” he continued.
Sheep-wise, Eddie aims to push his flock up in size up to at least 400 sheep, keeping to the Texel/Suffolk types.
“I might push numbers up to 400 or 450…400 would probably be the maximum I’d say,” he said.
In terms of the facilities on the farm, Eddie and the family only recenty put up a new sheep and cattel handly facility. However, should Eddie decide to continue down the beef route, he admits he would like to add to the beef housing facilities on the farm. Something which will be considered in 2019.
“We wouldn’t be that well-equipped shed-wise on the beef side.” Eddie explained to That’sFarming.
“I would like to do some type of beef unit or something like that.” he said to Kevin.
Why Agriculture -
Driven by a passion for working with sheep and cattle, Eddie admits to simply loving the land.
“I like working with cattle and I like working with Sheep.” Eddie explained to Kevin.
“I have that love for the land and I do like machinery as well.”
Eddie not only enjoys the variety connected to the job, but also a sense of pride in continuing the enterprise started by his grandfather many years ago. The third-generation farmer has no intentions of abandoning his agricultural roots anytime soon and there is simply no other career he would ever consider.
“It’s something different everyday…I couldn’t sit in an office or even a factory doing the same thing every day.” Eddie said.
“Some might say hedge-cutting is monotonous, but It doesn’t bother me at all. I just have to be outside,” he concluded.
Are you a Young Farmer between the ages of 18 and 40 like Eddie? Fancy sharing your story and being featured in our Weekly Young Famer series? If so, contact Kevin by email with a short biography on firstname.lastname@example.org.