Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 24 April 2017

Construction company owner on returning to the family farm

My week... James Reilly

James Reilly on his farm in Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
James Reilly on his farm in Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Ken Whelan

It's full steam ahead at James Reilly's farm in Cavan where the 30-year-old is flat out reinstating the beef and sheep enterprise which has been in the family for the past four generations.

James returned to farming in earnest two years ago. The family farm in Ballyjamesduff had been leased for the best part of 15 years after his dad, Jim, suffered a stroke and had to scale back on his farming activities.

James has been running his own construction company- JR Smart Build - mainly in Cavan and Meath since graduating from college in Enniskillen in the 1990s, but always had an ambition to return to farming.

So between the new builds and house restorations, he went back to the nearby Ballyhaise Agricultural College to complete his Green cert in 2015.

"Dad was delighted when I made the decision and it's great to have him around the farm. He's not able for the physical side of the work, but it's great to get his advice and to have him keeping an eye on things," he says.

James still runs his construction company but is upping his work rate at the family's 140ac farm in Kildorough and, over time, expects to return the enterprise to its former commercial glory.

"I will be doing it gradually and it will probably take about five years to complete what I have in mind for the farm, but that suits me. I will gradually build up the stocking levels on the land over time," he adds.

At the moment, he rears around 60 bought-in Angus and Hereford calves to 18 months and sells them on to Liffey Meats. He also has some 200 sheep on the farm. They lambed around Christmas and he expects to have 30 of the lambs to be ready for the local marts come Easter time. The farm also produces an average of 800 tonnes of silage, most of which he sells on to local farmers as his current stocking levels are not of a size which would require such a level of stored feed.


"About 70pc of the silage is sold, but that will reduce when my stocking levels increase," he points out.

His priorities at the moment include a busy schedule of refencing and a refurbishment programme for the farm buildings. Liming the land and the general improvement of the soil are also priorities.

James is sanguine about beef and sheep prices, but he points out that he is only beginning to restock the farm, so he does not have the same overheads as neighbouring farmers who are working to the production limits of their holdings.

"I am sure when I am fully restocked I will have to deal with these bigger costs. The farm payment and the young farmers' allowance will help," he says.

At the moment, his farming and construction schedules are synchronised - early mornings and late evenings on the farm and daytime on the construction site, with every weekend on the farm taken up with "vaccinations and animal health issues mainly - things like that", as James puts it.

A single man, he is the only child of Jim and wife Mary to show an interest in farming. His brother John works off farm as an engineer, as do the girls Therese, Rosie, Martina and Maggie. What time James does have to himself is spent cocking the guns for the Ballyjamesduff and Mountnugent gun clubs. And even this may have to be suspended. "The way things are at the moment, the shooting is taking up valuable time," he says.

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