Farm Ireland

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Meet the Irish cattle herd with 12,000 followers on Instagram

'In the last 12 months 50pc of the female sales and 25pc of our bull sales were driven by social media'

The Kilsunny herd is one of many farm businesses turning to social media to promote itself and help increase sales and profits.

Farmer Edward Dudley has 10,000 followers on Instagram and says social media has benefited his farm business greatly.

Kilsunny Pedigree Herds is a mixed farming enterprise of 60 pedigree dairy cows and followers, alongside a pedigree beef herd of Hereford, Aberdeen-Angus and Shorthorn cattle.

Almost 200 head of cattle are farmed on 150 acres in the heart of Co. Tipperary, four miles outside the town of Thurles.

Edward Dudley is the third generation of his family to farm here; both his parents Trevor and Louise are still actively involved in the farm and the Dudley family have been farming on this site since 1949 with both the beef and dairy herds being fully pedigree since the early 1970s.

Regular exhibitors on the summer show circuit each year, the herd has tasted much success in the show ring with many prizes and accolades to their credit, including a championship win at the National Hereford Calf Show in Tullamore this month.

Aside from their victories in the show ring, the Kilsunny herd has built up quite a following online, with 3,500 ‘likes’ on Facebook, nearly 1,000 followers on Twitter, almost 2,000 followers on Snapchat and combined views of over 50,000 on their farm YouTube channel. But it is on the photo-sharing app, Instagram that the Kilsunny herd really comes into its own, breaking the 10,000 followers mark recently.

As well as his farming endevaours, Edward is a freelance cattle photographer and so naturally gravitated towards the photo-centered nature of Instagram. 

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Edward explains ‘Instagram is my favourite of all social media channels as it’s solely about the image; it’s about capturing a particular moment in time and giving people a little insight into exactly what you are doing on the farm on any given day’.

"We’ve got photos of the cattle in rain, snow, frost, glorious sunshine and even the recent Storm Ophelia plus lots of behind the scenes action from calving time, show preparation and almost everything in between on our Instagram feed.

"It really helps build a relationship with our online audience as we’re connected every single day of the year and not just posting photos when we’ve got a bull to sell or when we win a big prize at a cattle show."

It’s the daily commitment to posting new and topical images each and every day that has seen the Kilsunny herd jump from 2,000 followers on January 1 of this year to its current total of over 12,000 presently.

"It might seem easy, but it’s actually a lot of work. You’ve to complete all the routine and important day-to-day farming jobs and also remember to snap some photos of what you’re doing so you’ll have something to put online later.

"It’s a bit of a juggling act but photography is my passion and my mobile phone is always in my pocket so I’m never too far away from the camera!"

Reaching milestones like 10,000 followers are no easy feat, but there’s more to a successful online presence that simply wracking up the likes, comments and shares. Edward explains "initially, social media was just a bit of fun".

"We used it to show off our cattle and to keep up to date with other pedigree breeders at home and abroad. As our online following grew, we began to get more interest in our cattle and started selling pedigree breeding bulls and heifers directly to new customers who found us solely through social media".

"In the last 12 months, about 50pc of our female sales and 25pc of our bull sales (across all breeds) were driven by social media," says Edward.

"Everyone has a smart phone and internet access and so social media is often the first port of call when farmers are trying to buy cattle or tap into a particular bloodline. 

"It’s especially effective amongst younger farmers and as it’s completely free to use, there really are no downside to social media for the farm business."

As well as cattle sales, Edward also sells photos on the back of their online reach on Instagram too.

"People buy photos to frame or often to give as presents to the farmer in the family. Photos of bulls, baby calves and shots of the countryside are usually the most popular. This is an area of the business that was totally unexpected, but it’s something that I’m keen to develop in the future."

And Edward doesn't think that 1m followers is outside his reach. "I always joke that reaching 1m followers is the ultimate goal!"

"But, on a serious note, I’m hoping to continue to show off our farm and give people a glimpse into the real everyday life of the typical family farm in Ireland, while also increasing our online audience and generating more and more sales off the farm each year."

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