Farm Ireland

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Meet the farmer who took the unusual step of switching from dairying to cattle finishing


Ken Whelan

The roof was blown off Paudy O'Brien's calving shed in Co Cork by Storm Ophelia, but he has no further farm damage to report apart from a couple of trees falling to earth on his farm.

"The power didn't go, like it did in 2014 when I was cut off for five days. So it wasn't so bad and anyway we are alive," the 38-year-old says very matter of factly.

The cattle finisher and businessman, farms 120 acres of "good land" near Doneraile and he is philosophical about damage to the farm buildings.

"We rear the calves in a shed which looks like a greenhouse and the roof just flew away. But it had a 10-year guarantee and it was 10 years old."

The lessons Paudy has learned from the latest extreme weather event is how we are all very dependent on the ESB and its ability to maintain power throughout the country and also how reliant we are on social media for information.

Paudy, is married to Dubliner Samantha, a Slimming World consultant whose grandparents ran a dairy farm in Donard, Co Wicklow. The couple have a one-year-old boy Patrick.

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After completing his Green Cert in Clonakilty College, Paudy took over the family farm when his father Patrick retired nearly 20 years ago. Three years ago he took the unusual step of switching the from dairying to cattle finishing, but he has no regrets.

"I had around 70 British Friesians at the time and was supplying milk to Dairygold. When I took over the farm we had around 23 cows and the plan was to build up the herd to 120. I got the herd to around 70 but was faced with a bill of €150,000 to upgrade the milking parlour and put in new roadways I decided to switch to finishing cattle. I was at a crossroads in my career anyway and needed a new challenge," he explains.

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He is now finishing an average of 60 cows for Dawn Meats every year and is expanding his farm auditing business, Agri Txt, which thus far has around 150 farmer clients.

He had a stand at the recent Ploughing Championships which produced an extra 30 clients outside the Cork region.

The company audits the health and environmental status of farms applying for Bord Bia approval.

"It's a useful accreditation to have because it can result in bonuses for milk and extra payments for some grades of cattle.

"What I do is call to the farm and do a farm walk and then bring all the health, veterinary and environmental information on the farm up to date and ready for submission to Bord Bia.

"I usually drop in on clients during the year so that there is no mad rush when the time comes to submit the audit," he says.

Paudy, spends up to two days flat out on the farm with the remaining three days of his working week devoted to the business.

Off farm he is very active in the Irish Scouts Association and serves on the board of directors of the national organisation.

This involves attending monthly meetings of its executive in Dublin and covering regional meetings of the association.

A scout since he was a nipper, his pastime has taken him to scouting jamborees all over the country and to international jamborees in Japan and Sweden.

He also met his wife Samantha through the movement.

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