I’m a bit late to the party but, I really enjoyed the Irish Farmers Journal Junior edition a few weeks back. Kudos to those behind it. Seeing the enthusiasm for farming the young people have was fantastic. It was enjoyable because I was in their shoes 30 years ago.
For as long as I remember, I’ve been obsessed with farming.
Cleaning out my old room recently my mother found a T-shirt bought for me at the RDS spring show back in 1986. Dad was coaching Ballinascarthy Macra in the farm skills final, so my brother and I were brought along to what was then the most prestigious event in the Irish agricultural calendar.
The garment had a blue tractor on the front with my name emblazoned over it. The words, Irish Farmers Journal and Macra were in small print. It’s safe to say no one at the time expected me to be national vice-president of one or spend almost eight years writing for the other.
While at the RDS I purchased my first Hereford cow. No, I didn’t jump in at the deep end and buy one of the stock on show in Dublin 4, it was the Britains’ toy farm animal version. It was easier for my parents to fob me off with those rather than the real thing and, subsequently, a decent carpet farming herd developed.
I was well ahead when it came to heeding Aidan Brennan’s advice on investing first communion money. While I didn’t manage to make as big an investment as the young Cavan farmer William Woods made I hope his investment lasts as long as mine.
I bought a heifer calf that was sold two years later and replaced it with a Shorthorn heifer calf who subsequently became cow number seven in our fledgling suckler herd. Her offspring were sold or retained and were a bit of a savings account for me. I was building equity before dairy share farming made the phrase more common.
Around the same time, my grandfather in Mayo sent down three Khaki Campbell ducks. I still had a few years left in primary school and, using one of the smaller outbuildings in the yard, I bought another five ducks and sold the eggs.
The duck numbers grew to about 50 and another building was commandeered. The proceeds of the egg sales were my pocket money and savings through most of my time in secondary school.
The itch to do some more bovine investment was growing though. When Dad purchased a Simmental bull, the door to achieving one of my early goals of buying pedigree cattle opened. A pair of Simmental heifers were purchased and things gradually built from there.
It’s not all been smooth-sailing. Within 20 minutes of coming home, one of the Simmental heifers ended up breaking out and ended up in a neighbour’s slurry pit. She swam out but only had one calf.
Conformation wise, she was the standout but I should have paid much more attention to the way she kept her distance and kept an eye on us. That was a lesson learned the hard way.
The other heifer had a far bigger impact. About 30% of the herd is descended from her directly and up until the arrival of the real-life Herefords two years ago, over 90% of the animals here had her breeding. A daughter of that cow remains in the herd 22 years later.
I hope those who contributed to Irish Farmers Journal Junior are lucky enough to fulfil their farming ambitions too.