Similar to many young aspiring farmers, Adrian Buckley owned cattle within his father’s herd, but external pressures and a desire to do his own thing resulted in him actively looking for a farm.
“BEAM triggered things. The reduction figures were coming up and the father was saying he’d have to sell some of his own cattle in order to keep mine. I suppose that was his way of saying to find somewhere for my own stock.
“It was a good push to get, the encouragement to do your own thing and be more independent, make your own choices.”
Finding farms to rent in west Cork isn’t easy so Adrian had to do a bit of scouting before finding a farm for lease half an hour from home.
Looking for ground was a bit of a “last minute.com job”, he says. “I was very lucky. It was the first week of May and I saw this advertised, so I spoke to the owner and got on well with them and we made a deal through an auctioneer. That was May 2020 and in the middle of Covid-19, so it was something to keep me busy.”
The farm he currently rents consists of 32ac, all in one block. It’s split in natural divisions, with some larger fields divided with a reel and posts. On relatively high ground that runs to almost 550ft above sea level, it’s a good dry farm nonetheless and, as Adrian explained, it was well set up.
“The paddocks were fairly well laid out. There were water troughs and it was all reseeded in the previous five or six years, so it was a good place to walk into. I’m running a herd of 25 sucklers. Breeding is all AI and the cows are mainly Limousin. I cross them with blues and maybe the odd Charolais.
“They would be from a similar background to the home herd. The system I run is autumn-calving and selling the weanlings and a few pedigree bulls. Weanlings are sold at special weanling sales from May onwards at Gortatlea, Kenmare or Skibbereen. I’d keep my own heifers as replacements and last year I did a bit of contract rearing for a neighbour. I might do that again.”
On the commercial cows, Adrian’s bull of choice is a middle of the road Belgian Blue.
“Nothing too hard-calved. You’d still have to watch them and have your cow in the right condition calving, but we wouldn’t go too hard-calving. We’d be watching the star ratings as well as calving ease and still keeping an eye on the terminal side of things. You want something balanced, something that you can sell. Last year, I used AZL, DBZ, EBY and LM2116.”
While there are animal handling facilities on the land, there are no sheds, so Adrian has rented cattle accommodation elsewhere. Distance is no object to Adrian and he found a shed in Castlehaven, 40 minutes away.
Despite the distance from the grazing, the arrangement works out well for him.
“I work as an ag consultant with Owen O’Driscoll and associates in Skibbereen. That’s 10 minutes from where the cattle are wintered. It’s a four-bay shed with calving pen and creep pens behind it. I buy silage from the man I rent off and the silage I make on the rented ground I feed if needed to whatever cattle are left here and can transport it to the shed if required after.”
Breeding takes place on the main farm and Adrian uses a vasectomised bull with a chin ball for heat detection. For calving, he uses a combination of cameras and MooCall.
Despite high input costs, good beef prices are a help.
“The cattle trade is on fire. The prices my father got recently were fantastic and it would give you a bit of confidence too when you see the likes of it.
“He averaged €3.58/kg for the bulls that averaged over 400kg. They were mainly double-muscled blues with a few Limousins and Charolais too. I’ll be weaning my own bull calves soon, so I’d be hoping for similar.”
“I’ve about five pedigree Limousin cows and I’ll probably keep it around that. I have five good ones and do a bit of showing and bull sales. I’d sell a few pedigree bulls every year, Bluehill Limousins is the prefix. I took up showing at the local shows with my brother in 2018.
“There is a good bit of work involved in showing, but we enjoy it and it’s a good way to meet potential customers. We travel to the shows with our neighbour, who shows pedigree Charolais cattle. It’s handy as we help each other out.
“We went to the FBD national livestock show at Tullamore Show for first time in 2019. We won nothing, but it was a great experience and there was a great standard of cattle on show there. Getting back there would be a good target. The main bulls I use on the pedigrees would be Grangeford Jojo(LM2393) and Plumtree Fantastic (S1278).
“You’re very much in dairy country around here and the main market would be mainly Hereford and Angus bulls. But there are a few dairy farmers interested in Limousin too.”