Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 April 2018

'I just want to maximise the profit from what I have got'

My week: Tomas O'Leary, Rathmore, Co Kerry, sheep and beef farmer

Tomas O'Leary, a sheep and beef farmer from Rathmore, Co Kerry
Tomas O'Leary, a sheep and beef farmer from Rathmore, Co Kerry

Ken Whelan

It's getting very busy now at Tomas O'Leary's sheep and beef enterprise in Co Kerry with the first of the spring lambs already on the ground.

"We have 38 lambs so far from a flock of 250 sheep and should have the rest of them on the ground within the next 20 days or so.

"It will be busy until the end of March," he says.

The early lambs are earmarked for a lamb producer group in the region.

Tomas works the 60ac home farm in Rathmore and rents a further 90ac some miles away at Beaufort for his sheep and beef enterprise. Both farms have about 10pc of the acreage under forestry.

Apart from his main flock of Belclare-Suffolk crosses, he also runs a herd of continental weanlings which he finishes for the meat factories in counties Kildare and Meath.

The 49-year-old did his Green Cert straight from school at Pallaskenry Agricultural College.

"They didn't call it that back in the eighties. I forget what they called it but it took a year to complete," he says.

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However his interest in agricultural education remains and today he is one of nine farmers participating in the current Teagasc sheep programme.

He is aiming at producing a €1,000 per hectare return from his sheep enterprise.

"I'm nearly there now. I have been on the Teagasc programme for two years and it covers various stocking levels from 10, 12 and 14 sheep per hectare. I think I will take the 12 ewes per hectare option," he says.

Tomas does not rule expanding both enterprises in a few years time but all will depend on the viability of any expansion when decision day arrives.

He is a firm believer in the commercial maxim which underlines the commonsensical idea that there is no point in expanding if there is no financial benefit in getting bigger.

"Maybe I'll expand in two years time - we'll see. For the moment I just want to maximise the profit from what I have got," is his relaxed view when replying to the question.

This reflects his belief that every Irish farmer should have a proper work/life balance.

"You just can't be working all the time," he emphasises.

Married to Eileen - a teacher in Millstreet - the couple have three secondary going children: Michéal who is coming up to his Leaving Cert and 14-year-old twins Yvonne and Sinead.

"Eileen helps around the farm and the children help out during the holidays," says the one farm labour unit man.

Unusually for a Kerryman he doesn't get over excited by the fortunes of the country's GAA teams.

"I don't have much of an interest in football. Maybe a bit of soccer now and then. I prefer to read books on technology and the like and I am a movie fan.

"We have Netflix and the series I am watching at the moment is Prison Break. It's the best series I have seen on Netflix so far.

"Otherwise I like the old classic movies with the likes of Clark Gable and Stewart Granger or sci-fi films but black and white movies don't seem to be of much interest the children," he says.

Back on the farm it is all about pushing up his stocking rate to suit the acreage available and developing his new paddock system for grazing.

"Things are good just now. I do what I do and I know how to deal with it," Tomas adds.

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