Steven Corrigan at 27 years of age, is already married with three children. Just where he gets the time to help run a dairy farm, a beef farm, and a contracting firm is beyond belief.
He hails from county Carlow, where he, his father and his two older brothers Kenneth and Mark farm over 95 hectares on their home farm, 43 hectares of which are for dairy grazing. An IFA member with his feet planted firmly on the ground, Steven has a passion for what he does and it’s almost infectious.
The Corrigan’s have been farming that long, Steven could not give a definitive answer to the number of generation farmers there have been in the household. His father and his father before him have all been farmers, with Steven saying it’s all they have every done.
“We’ve been at it quite a long time”, he laughed, “I couldn’t really give an exact number. My father and grandfather before him and great grand father all farmed. We’re at it so long, it’s quite an old farm here now”, said Steven.
Farming is and always has been in the blood, with Steven choosing to go straight from school into the industry. A move which didn’t faze him in the slightest, as he he was always out working the farm as a teenager with his father.
The three brothers run the farm in unison, each with a different passion for the industry. His brother Kenneth has more of an interest in the cattle side of the farm, while his other brother Mark has a passion for machinery. Steven on the other hand, loves all things farming. He loves every and any type of machine, and also holds a real love for cattle.
“My oldest brother Kenneth he would be more into the cows and doesn’t dabble with machinery. My other brother Mark, he’s more of a machinery man with little interest in cows, while love them both. I have a passion for the breeding of the cows and machinery as well. I sort of run the contracting as well”, said Steven.
As mentioned above the family farm over 95 hectares, with a herd of over 140 Holsteins. The team of three brothers and father are currently milking 140 Holstein cows by two robotic lely milkers. The milking process is carried out 24 hours a day on the farm. Steven finds that the robotic system has helped improve the farm’s efficiency in a lot of ways, helping improve milk yields, fertility of the cattle and in turn helps improve calving patterns. It also allows the three brothers more time to carry other some of their many other jobs.
“We put them (robotic milkers) in back in April 2015 and yields have gone up quite a bit now. It has improved them a good bit. Fertility has also improved, and it has helped improve calving patterns. Not to mention it’s a good labour saver too.”, Steven said.
He continued, “We work an ABC system with the robot, so they cows go out for a fresh piece of grass three times a day”. The fresh grass encourages them to get milked, so they can go out again to plot a b or c”.
This essentially eradicates some of the more tedious jobs associated with dairy farming, and as mentioned above is a great labour saver.
They also farm beef cattle as well, with up on 40 beef calves on site at the minute. These breeds vary from Hereford, Red Angus and more, which are all crossed with Friesians. They also have a number of one and two year old replacements, which brings their total altogether to just over 300 cattle, including dairy stock.
They plan to sell on some stock for weanlings when the market begins to pick up again, the best of them while the rest will be finished.
“We’ll take it as it goes really, as we can’t predict the future of beef at the minute”, said Steven.
He also shows a few dairy cows and heifers and calves, his first year competing. Steven showed cattle at the recent Tullow, Tullamore and Tinahely shows, where he even obtained his first prize ribbon. He and one of his heifers won first place at the recent Tullow show, though the ever modest Steven made light of the win. He did admit to catching the ‘showing’ bug though and plans to show again next year.
This, like on every farm, varies from season to season.
“It’s very different everyday around here” he chuckled.
In spring their focus is on checking cows and heifers due to calf, with a high number due at the same time every year. Though the scheduling has been helped by the robotic milking systems.
On a standard day, most mornings the first thing to do is check the robots to see everything is running efficiently and in order. It is vitally important to ensure everything is being collected correctly, everything is clean, and running in perfect order.
Steven says there is always bits and bobs to do around the farm, with the boys rarely left without work.
“I float around and pot around and do the phone a good bit as well, as well as the contracting”, He said.
They don’t carry out grass measurement, but regular carry out eye checks. They strip graze all of their pastures, in order to get more out of their grass supplies. This means regular checking of the grazing paddocks. Buffer feeding of their dairy herd begins in September and the team continue this up until late spring. This ensures their cattle’s body condition, milk yields and protein levels are unharmed, while it also ensures the health of a cow following first lactations.
The team of brothers also run their own contracting business, so as you can imagine summertime is extra hectic. They boys, together, harvest over 900 acres together, and carry out work throughout the local area. This, Steven says, ensures they are busy most days. Their father still lends a hand in any duties when needed, though he took a step back in 2015.
“He’s still here everyday, although he’s taking a back seat now”, said Steven.
Steven says a career in Agriculture was always the plan and from a young age all he could think about what’s machinery. Steven left school at an early age and hasn’t looked back since his direct transition into the agriculture industry.
“I didn’t finish school. When I was younger I was always tractor mad and that’s how I got into machinery. I’m more passionate about cows now than anything, said Steven.
Challenges/Advice for young farmers:
When asked of the biggest challenge facing farmers in his age bracket, Steven came back quickly with the response, money. He says from his personal experience making sure you can make a liveable wage from the business is the main challenge facing each and every farmer.
“Getting the right money would the biggest challenge. It is for us anyway, with us three brothers and our father living off the one income”, Steven stated.
Milk Prices were also a big challenge facing the family, though Steven admits they are quite content now. He does though hope that there is an increase for Winter supplies, as he feels farmers need them badly.
“It’s better than last year, we’re happy enough at the minute. It’s always difficult to gather the money for milk and diesel prices weren’t good for a long time too. There’s always a lot that can be done. Winter milk is coming and we would need to be getting a better price for winter milk supplies”. he said.
He says he has not come across many young farmers out on their own, with many like him taking it up on the farms they grew up on. This, he says, is the situation on a lot of farms now. He advised anyone who harbours dream of entering the industry to “stick with it” and attend as many farming meetings as possible.
“Stick at it anyway. If you are passionate about it, definitely stick at it. Things take time. Go to your local meetings, whether that’s IFA or discussion groups as you’ll always learn something.” Steven added.
The family have no plans, as of yet, to increase dairy herd numbers. That being said Steven has said they may look to increase their beef herd numbers over the coming year.
“We might get into a bit more beef stock”, he said.
Greater efficiency steven says is always the goal for every year, he and his brothers also hope to increase their contracting workload also.
Why you love what you do:
Steven’s love for the industry and livestock in particular is very obvious. He speaks of his animals fondly and it’s easily figured out that he gets great job satisfaction in what he does. He’s always kept busy and says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love what i do because it’s what i am passionate about. I’m always busy and there is generally never a dull moment. I can’t picture myself at anything else in all weathers at all hours. As the end of everything there is always a sense of achievement”, concluded Steven.
It's easy to see why Steven opted out of furthering his education. He holds a certain pride and passion in what he does, with a huge amount of responsibility at such a young age. Passionate, determined and with a real love for his animals, Steven Corrigan is going to be a mainstay in agriculture for years to come.