This week sees the return of our Way Out West series. Over the next few months, we will be visiting suckler farms predominatly in the west of Ireland, profiling smaller scale suckler farmers’ predominantly part-time operations. These farms make up the social fabric that rural Ireland is joined together by and we aim to tell their story in this special series.
Adrian Flatley is 22 years old and farms just outside Kilkelly, Co Mayo, in the heart of suckler country. Adrian is one of three brothers who farm alongside their father Michael.
The Flatley brothers are well-known on the show circuit throughout the country, showing commercial cattle and pedigree Shorthorns under the ‘Glann Shorthorns’ prefix.
Adrian is a student in GMIT and Mountbellew Agricultural College, as well as working part time in two marts, Balla in Co Mayo and Castlerea, Co Roscommon.
The home farm is roughly 120ac in size, with the majority of this land being leased or rented. The farm is very much a family partnership, with Adrian’s father Michael farming alongside his three sons Chris, Kieran and Adrian.
“We are just all stone mad about farming. From a very young age, we were all out with Dad. We got great encouragement and the showing had us hooked from there on,” Adrian said.
Currently, the farm is split across three herd numbers. Adrian was farming in partnership with his Dad and in 2020, he decided to go and lease land and get a herd number of his own after completing the Green Certificate.
Adrian leased a 33ac farm, where he hopes to build his own herd of suckler cows alongside his small herd of pedigree Shorthorns, to which he has added a new herd prefix called ‘Glannview’.
His plans are to grow his suckler herd in the coming years up to 40 cows, with a focus on Shorthorns, while also breeding fatstock commercial cattle from his commercial suckler herd.
Adrian is a third year student in GMIT and Mountbellew Agricultural College, where he is studying for a degree in agribusiness.
“The fact that we received the Green Cert through the agribusiness course was a great incentive to choose this course when I was picking from my CAO options when I’d finished my leaving cert in 2018,” Adrian said.
Through this course, Adrian can travel to and from college without having to live away from home, which allows him time for farming.
I also miss the social side of college, meeting friends daily and going out on a Thursday night
COVID-19 has meant all lectures are online for Adrian, which means he has no travelling to college this year.
“Not having to travel is great, but there are a lot of distractions at home. It’s hard to stay focused for assignments sat at a computer for lectures all day.
“I also miss the social side of college, meeting friends daily and going out on a Thursday night in some of the pubs and nightclubs around Galway city. Hopefully we’ll be back there soon,” he said
Adrian is an employee of two marts in the west of Ireland, Aurivo mart in Balla, Co Mayo, as well as being part of the droving team in Castlerea Mart, Co Roscommon. Adrian enjoys working in both marts.
“The show and sale days are the best, there’s a serious buzz around the mart on them days. Everybody loves seeing quality stock going through the ring and local farmers getting good prices for them,” Adrian commented.
The Flatley brothers started showing cattle in 2010, where they won the All-Ireland Shorthorn Championship at the Beef Expo showing Cappanellan Nacy, an 18-month-old Shorthorn heifer. From this, the brothers were hooked. Adrian stayed solely at Shorthorns, where his heart lies, however brothers Chris and Kieran ventured into the commercial scene, as well as having some Simmentals.
The Flatelys’ success – and Adrian’s – didn’t stop there and they have bred a few bulls since, standing in pedigree herds as stock bulls throughout the country.
I’d love to see more people using Shorthorns
They also bred Glann Rosie, who won the All-Ireland at Strokestown show in 2018 and sold later that year for €3,500 at 10 months of age. The highlight of Adrian’s career so far was exporting the first ever Shorthorn bull from a society sale. This bull was sold to a breeder in Wales in spring 2020 at 10 months of age for €3,000.
His hope for the future is to breed many more of these top-quality Shorthorns, while promoting the breed as much as possible within Ireland.
“I’d love to see more people using Shorthorns, they make super cows and are very easy finished. We have some great lines here in Ireland and because of that, I think we could be aiming more for export markets.”
The breed has seen a new following in the last two years, with roan heifers in particular demand. Shorthorns run in the blood of the Flatelys, with Adrian’s brother Kieran recently elected president of the Shorthorn society.
“It’s a massive honour for us to see Kieran in that role and hopefully it will go well for him,” Adrian said
“I know that my future lies in suckler cows and breeding pedigree cattle and I don’t know what else. I’d love to manage or run a mart someday,” said Adrian.
“There are massive obstacles with farming in the west. Wet land, small holdings and long winters, but there’s one thing we are good at and that’s breeding quality cattle. When you have quality, you’ll have lots of customers and you’ll make money.”