At 22 years of age, Richard O’Beirne gave up an intercounty football career to concentrate on farming. It brought him from Strokestown to Kilconly near Tuam in 1989. Not that there is anything wrong with his home place in Roscommon, but he decided to make a fresh start and give his whole attention to farming.
“I was farming a fragmented farm. In fact, I was a ‘townie’, my father was in the livestock business buying and selling calves from the south. My wife is from Connemara, and we couldn’t see a future in Strokestown. My parents stayed and I moved.”
Richard and his wife Eithne bought Millburn, a residential farm on 96ac, in 1989 and paid €180,000 for it. “That was an horrendous price at that time, given interest rates and the state of farming. I tried to sell property in Strokestown, and nothing sold at auction, so I was stuck with a bridging loan at 18pc,” Richard explains.
The farm is now for sale and guided at €1.3m by Savills.
He had spent two years working for the Hereford Society and saw farms all over the country but decided the only way to succeed was to excel. “I gave up playing football at 22 and never kicked a ball again, even though I was playing intercounty football that time, I chose this as a career.”
The O’Beirnes brought their stock with them. “I was breeding Herefords that time,” Richard said, “and I had a Charolais herd. I had the Cloonbracken Herefords from the 1960s, in my father’s time, and I had the Doon Charolais, named after the farm in Strokestown. The Millburn Limousins came in the early 1990s after we moved here.
Richard went into breeding pedigree early in his career. “I didn’t want to be beholden to anyone, as a pedigree breeder you were independent, it was based on your ability to make a living. If I could get the genetics right and get the combination of a bull and a cow, then I got the reward if I produced the real top bull.
“It was a little bit more self-rewarding, and when you go to the sale and you are having a bad day, you can say ‘no’ and you can wait.
“But there are no choices with the system you have at the moment except being patronised by not very nice people in the factory business. It needs a whole revamp and it wouldn’t take a lot to get farmers on their side, but they just treat us like dirt.”
“Nobody cares about me producing wonderful beef, I have some of the best beef cattle in the country and nobody cares. I care.
The O’Beirnes have dispersed their pedigree herds. Richard is running a commercial herd and fattening cattle, “for my sins” until the place is sold.
The 96ac farm is located 3km from Kilconly and 15km from Tuam. It is a well-equipped livestock holding described by James Butler of Savills as “a tidy farm with top class sheds”. Over the years, the O’Beirnes invested strongly in the farm and the infrastructure.
The yard has winter accommodation for about 150 head of cattle along with storage for machinery and fodder. According to Richard, it could carry 100 dairy cows and 120 to 150 beef cattle.
The farm buildings include a lofted stone barn, a steel-frame calving shed, three cattle sheds with supervent cladding, slatted floors, feeding areas and creep areas. There are also extensive cattle handling facilities, a silage clamp and a feed silo with a capacity for about eight tonnes.
The land is mainly in one block of pasture fenced with a mixture of electric fences and pristine stone walls. A 5ac parcel of bogland is situated about 7km to the south.
Richard explains that he bought the place originally because it contains the best of land, and he wasn’t proved wrong, “the land is very good and the rest comes, if you don’t start with good land you have no hope,” he said.
The traditional farmhouse is set in mature gardens. It has been tastefully restored and extended in recent years and now covers 2,857 sq. ft. The accommodation includes a living room, dining room, kitchen, a study, a family bathroom and four bedrooms.
With their two children grown up, Richard and Eithne are ready to retire from farming.
“I don’t want to be an old man doing it,” he said, “I’ve seen too many men being way too long at it.”