Tina Dolan Boylan runs a calf-to-beef farm in Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan with her husband. She buys in suck calves and rears them on milk replacer.
“Effectively, they’re bought in as young calves, and depending on the weather when they’re grown, they’re sent to grass,” explains Tina to That’s Farming.
“I don’t finish them, but I sell them on depending on prices. Usually they’re sold when they hit the year mark. Last year I had cattle sold in two different marts with the last 45 being sold in one group by weight to a local farmer.”
Tina’s focus in mainly beef, however she has had her fair share of experience with milking!
“When I was doing the Green Cert in Kildalton I had to go on placement in New Zealand for six months. It was a dairy farm of about 650 cows. When I came home I said I’d never milk a cow again!” she laughs.
As fate would have it, dairy cattle are still a part of her life since her husband Seamus would classify himself as a dairy farmer.
For Tina, farming has always been a part of her life. Growing up in Co. Meath, her family had their own farm. Now, Tina rents land in Cavan but sends her cattle for ‘a little holiday’ to her Meath farm when they’re to go on grass after being housed initially in Ballyconnell.
“I buy in Friesian bull calves, and I started about two years ago. Last year I’d say I bought from four farms in batches or lots, always of about 10 or 15. They’re brought in and reared by me then,” explains Tina to That’s Farming.
Last year After she buys the calves, she houses them in sheds.
“This week we actually put in an automatic calf feeder. I always buy in calves every winter, at the back end of the year. Before the last two years, I would have been buying in continental cattle, and near enough finishing those. It was in the last two or three years that I decided to go the Friesian bull calf route.”
For Tina, things seem to be improving.
“I think there’s a more positive outlook at the moment in farming. There’s a higher number on Seamus’ side and it’s improving.
“What I like about farming is the outdoors, the animals, and the passion of it. Every day brings something different and there’s a new thing to be dealing with. I used to work in auctioneering, so I also like how the animals don’t talk back!”
There are good and bad sides to everything, as Tina knows.
“When things are good and weather is great, it’s an amazing thing to be at. And you just have to weather the storm when it’s bad.”
Financial struggles are still rampant it seems, and Tina’s farm is no stranger to falling prices.
“The losses never get any easier from my side. If you’re not getting the reward from it at the end of the day, it’s very tough. It’s like going to work in a regular job and putting everything into it and never getting anything back.”
Despite the hardship that farming causes, Tina is still optimistic. Her plans for the future including working to get a better system. Since the automatic calf feeder went in, she feels things are picking up.
“It’s all about getting a better animal out of it at the end of the day. I want to better use my time and work on getting better stock.”