My name is Lucy Rodgers. I am 16 years old and I live just outside Dromara, Co Down.
I am Head Girl at Saintfield High School where I am just finishing my GCSE year (similar to the Irish Junior Cert). On leaving school this summer, I am hoping to study a Level 3 Veterinary Nursing course at CAFRE, Greenmount, starting in September.
We run a family farm with pedigree and commercial beef cattle. The farm comprises 270 acres, of which 20 acres is arable and the rest is grassland.
The farm is split across two sites. Hillhead is home to our pedigree Blonde d’Aquitaine and Limousin herds. At our out farm at Draperhill we run 100 commercial suckler cows.
Our commercial herd is mainly sired by Limousin and Charolais stock bulls. We retain most of our heifers for breeding and sell our commercial bullocks through local suckled calf sales. The majority of the pedigree bulls are sold from home to repeat customers.
Making my mark
In April 2020, my brother Martin, sister Emma and myself set up our own small flock of commercial ewes.
We purchased ewes and lambs from a local farmer and have since added to the flock. Our plan is to retain our own ewe lambs and buy hoggets this year to grow numbers. We purchased a pedigree Texel ram last year to cross with the ewes.
I also have six commercial cows of my own. I sell the calves every year at the autumn suckled calf sales. Cows have mainly been bought from the Corries Leading Ladies sale, and my plan for these animals is to retain heifer calves and sell the bullocks.
In the future I hope to be able to keep a small flock of sheep, some breeding cows and manage these alongside my future career in veterinary nursing.
As a family, we attend our local agri-shows and show our pedigree stock. We normally head across the Irish Sea to the Royal Highland Show to show cattle. But due to Brexit and the NI Protocol, this is no longer possible unless the rules change on the six-month residency period required if we want to take the bulls home.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also put a stop to going to shows. However, with no cattle to prepare for events, it has freed up time at the weekends to get extra jobs done at home.
I am really looking forward to getting our stock out to shows again and advertisingthem to potential buyers. I miss the buzz and adrenaline rush you get in the show ring, as well as catching up with all of our friends that attend these events.
As well as the return of the shows, I am particularly looking forward to the return of Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) events, and competitions such as flower arranging, tag rugby, stock judging and general club meetings.
I am currently secretary of the YFCU Junior Forum and a member of Spa YFCU committee. YFCU is a great rural youth organisation and I have made many friends right across Northern Ireland through my involvement in it.
I would really encourage others to get involved in the YFCU or in Macra na Feirme. Not only do you get to socialise with friends with similar interests, but it enables you to take part in a variety of competitions and events that no other organisation provides a platform for.
I firmly believe my involvement in YFCU has developed my confidence and life skills for the future.
Living on a family farm, my parents have always encouraged us to develop our interests. We are included in making decisions for the farm, whether it be buying new stock, machinery or doing maintenance work around the yard.
Getting involved in the running of the farm also makes you realise just how many career options within agriculture there are for young people who want to work in the sector.