I always wanted to farm, says Robin. My father died when I was young and my mother kept the farm going until I came home from school after doing my Inter Cert in 1972.
The farm today is close to 600 acres and we would usually have about 600 stock on hand, the core of the herd being the 2oo suckler cows.
Almost all the cows are Limousin. I think Limousins are a good suckler dam; they produce a good calf and have good maternal traits. Their one flaw is their “negative docility” but they are still the best breed of suckler cow overall.
The cornerstone of our system is maximising grass usage. Tied in closely with this is autumn calving.
The market today wants a good quality carcase finished at a young age which effectively means under two years of age. This being the case, the majority of animals would only spent one spring-summer season out at grass and my theory is that the older they are for that grazing season the better use they will make of it. If they are born in the spring they will not put on very much weight in the following months compared to those calved in the autumn who land running as it were when they hit the grass for the first time. They are eating plenty grass in their own right and this is our cheapest feed.
Some heifers are finished out of the shed, at around 20 months with others going out to grass again, to be finished at under 24 months.
We have traditionally exported the best of the bull weanlings with the remainder finished at 17-18months but if the current strength of the domestic market continues we will look at finishing them all ourselves.
Of course what we would love to see is the extension of the quality assurance price grid to bulls!
With the exception of a handful of horses which are definitely a hobby everything else we do on the farm is focussed around the cattle. We grow 80 acres of barley, the grain for eating, the straw for bedding.
Farming is always cyclical but the last year was a very low low. Prices are a record high but that has been long swallowed up. I always try to have the attitude that anything outside the back door is not really a problem. But things have got in on some people like never before. We badly need a good summer to lift the spirits and alleviate some pressure, financial and emotional.
The future of commercial beef farms such as this is up in the air because of the current CAP reform. Like all reforms there will be winners and users and we won’t know where we stand until we see the fine print.
Beef is a good, safe and healthy food. The world population is growing as is the demand for red meat. Beef is one of our most important exports. If the political will is there to allow us, this sector can generate a lot of wealth inside our shores and feed an awful of people outside them.