To some leaving a successful and profitable career in plumbing to become a farmer, might seem a bit out there. But Aidan Holland has certainly justified his move into theindustry.
He hails from Peterswell in county Galway, famous for the local St.Thomas hurling club. Aidan Holland is a beef farmer, aged 34, who currently has over 50 cows and in total 120 cattle altogether. A now full-time farmer, Aidan is also a qualified plumber. He quit that job back in 2010, before completing his green certificate and becoming a full-time farmer in 2011. As he says himself, "plumbing was a good job, but money isn't everything". He comes from a farming background, with his father having farmed before him and also his grandfather and his uncles also farmers. His farm specializes in selling weanlings, as well as forward stores.
"I always had an interest in farming from the word go. I didn't want to go to school, but wanted to be out farming instead" he says.
His earliest farming memory, might turn most away from the profession but not Aidan. He remembers being attacked by a cow when he was about four years old.
"It didn't put me off though, after that i only became more safety conscious".
The same cow, he says, also attacked his brother at a later date "sending him flying".
Aidan's day, like most beef farmers, involves a broad range of different jobs and chores. He starts at the ripe time of 7 a.m. in the morning, beginning with the herding of his livestock. He has a fragmented farm he says, which means a lot of on-foot journeys are undertaken. Aidan places a special emphasis on observing his animals, checking daily to see if they are in heat or in bad health, which he says it vitally important.
Other jobs include all jobs associated with silage during peak season, feeding animals, dosing, and the overall maintenance and cleaning of the farm and it's equipment. They hire in outside contractors to complete the bigger jobs such as silage making and slurry spreading. This is because he prefers to keep all things basic on the farm, with all machinery used only doing the simple jobs required of them.
As mentioned he currently has over 120 cattle altogether, 50 of which are cows, on 130 acres of land. He used to rent more but says he felt farmers tend to go overboard when renting land.
"Farmers tend to get carried away with renting land, so I decided to try and get the best out of the land I had, while keeping the stock levels the same" admitted Aidan.
That led to him concluding the renting of a local farm, for €100 per acre, and pushed him to gain more out of the land he already had. He puts a great emphasis grass management putting it at "top of the list", and he reseeds his land regularly to ensure maximum yields. This also helped him decrease his feed bill, which he says is small. He does offer animals a copper supplement among small amounts of other nutrients, mostly to cows after calving.
His farm deals mainly in Weanlings and Forward stores, selling them at the local mart in Gort Co. Galway, where he acts as a committee member helping Mart manager Bernie Fahy, whenever he can.
"Gort Mart offers a great exporting trade with a steady supply of quality, lean stock on offer" according to Aidan.
He says the farm aims to produce top quality progeny, and set a target of €1,100 price for animals of approximately 365 kgs. His farm uses A.I regularly, and says they have "very good A.I results". He spoke of his satisfaction in the AI system he uses and wouldn't trade it for any bull.
"You hear some farmers giving out about A.I. but it is down to the person knowing their cows" he says.
This he feels gives himan advantage over other farmers, and ensures that all cows take to the A.I. His farm keeps a teaser bull, or a heavy weanling, to offer them a more accurate way of keeping track of cows in heat. He prefers using CH and LM AI bulls to sire any offspring, as he feels they are the most suitable to his type of farming.
As for the future Aidan is always looking ahead rather than resting on his success.
He has recently started the Knowledge Transfer programme, which supports farmers in addressing a range of competitiveness and sustainability challenges facing the sector. He receives constant advice and reassurance and help with paperwork from his Advisor David Tarpey,who he felt deserved a special mention. This has led to Aidan commencing dung testing on his farm. This helps him eliminate any disease or animals suffering with disease, and enables him to not dose his animals. This is because he worries about antibiotics traces in meat, and also because he is "conscious of stock developing resistance to antibiotics". Such is Aidan's content in the system, he does not store any antibiotics whatsoever on his farm.
He hopes to increase the number of cows on his farm from 50 up to 70/80 and says he will be bulling 10 heifers in a month's time.
Future of the industry:
When questioned about the current state of the industry, Aidan spoke with a degree of optimism.
"The industry is as good as I've seen it for a few years. Fair play to Bord Bia or the Government, or whoever has increased market outlays after Brexit" said Aidan. He did his worry over the potential affect Brexit will have on future prices within the Agri-food sector.
"I am quite worried about the UK sourcing cheaper foods, this could have a disastrous knock on effect on prices" said Aidan.
This he says would greatly affect a lot of people within agriculture in Ireland. In offering advice for young farmers looking to make their mark, Aidan had one phrase for them to keep in mind.
"All I can say to them is Keep it simple" he advised.
He spoke of the need to go back and look at their own respective farming system, and says a top priority should be getting as much out of the land as possible while keeping costs down.
A young beef farmer who believes in the benefits of simple, traditional farming methods. Planning is, without doubt, vital to the success of Aidan and his farm. This is proven by the top quality progeny produced on his farm and also the high prices they aim for.
A determined, ambitious young man who knows what he wants to do and how he is going to do it. Aidan Holland, This week's young Farmer, has his head firmly screwed on and his eyes on the prize.
To some leaving a very profitable career in Plumbing might seem mad, but the move has definitely been justified.