Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

'People say it's madness to scale up but I enjoy the farming life'

My week: James Turner

Farmer James Turner with daughter Emily out and about on the family farm in Boolavogue, Co Wexford
Farmer James Turner with daughter Emily out and about on the family farm in Boolavogue, Co Wexford

Ken Whelan

James Turner is on his way home to Boolavogue having just sold his 165ac grazing block some 40 miles south in Tacumshane, and he is on the look-out for a farm - though he emphasises that he is in no hurry about any new land purchase.

The 32-year-old farms in partnership with his parents Jim and Kathleen, and his brother, Fergus, at the 200ac home farm in ­Boolavogue - along with a similar amount of leased land.

Image: Roger Jones
Image: Roger Jones

The partners run a substantial Holstein dairy herd supplying Glanbia and, from next week, they will be flat out until early March calving 187 cows.

The Boolavogue herd has grown since James was a boy from an original 20 head of Holsteins with an additional suckler enterprise to 210 in 2013, and now the aim is to push the size of the herd up to 450 this year.

"People say there's a madness in having so many cows and scaling up - but, look, I enjoy the farming life and I have no intention of giving it up," he emphasises.

James, who originally trained as an electrician, went back to farming eight years ago when he secured his Green Cert in two modules at Gurteen and Athenry.

Image: Roger Jones
Image: Roger Jones

"It only took 180 hours to complete," he says with some amazement in his voice.

With the Turners in expansion mode, James bought the Tacumshane farm some years back, purely as a grazing platform for the family's expanding herd but found that the annual movement of his herd back up and down to Boolavogue was beginning to resemble the "winter trek of the wildebeest" as every year went by.

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Another important reason for the move back home was to ensure that his young family grew up near their cousins. James and his partner, Michaela, a Czech citizen who is currently completing her Green Cert in organic farming in Kilmuckridge, have two children, Emily (two and a half) and Ambrose, a year younger.

"We had to make a decision and we thought it was better that the children grew up with their cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents.

Image: Roger Jones
Image: Roger Jones

"My brother, Fergus, and his wife, Margaret, have three boys, and my sister, Michelle, and her husband - who also live locally - have six children.

"We thought if we stayed in south Wexford any longer, we would probably have stayed there permanently, and the children would have been away from their cousins. And then there was the annual trek of the wildebeest to consider."

His main ambition at the moment is to improve the partnership's Holstein herd, and here he has opted for the Lyons Estate model, which concentrates on feed efficiency to boost milk production. The aim is to achieve 7,500kg per animal per season - which is no small amount of milk.

And his second new year's resolution is to acquire a new farm in the north Wexford area, preferably from a farmer considering retirement: "Anyone in the market can contact me though the local David Quinn company," he says. In his spare time, James likes to go hunting with the Island and Ballinagore hunts.

"I have a cob to go hunting in the winter and like to go at it full throttle. My brother also keeps a few horses and has a horse walker to keep them fit so you don't wreck yourself while hunting. I go to about two hunts in the season, but most of my spare time is now taken up with the children."

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