Farm Ireland

Monday 25 March 2019

'After months lambing ewes and calving with my dad the idea of working elsewhere was not attractive'

Linda Hanbidge-Cliffe, a finalist in the 2018 FBD Macra Young Farmer of the Year
Linda Hanbidge-Cliffe, a finalist in the 2018 FBD Macra Young Farmer of the Year
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Getting into farming for the right reasons are what I think are important, according to Linda Hanbidge-Cliffe.

Linda, who was a finalist in the 2018 FBD/Macra Young Farmer of the Year, says "I loved farming that's why I became a farmer". Although, it wasn't a straight road into farming for her.

She grew up in Brockna, Kiltegan along with her three brothers, Niall, Warren and Gordon on a farm where her father was milking 55 cows and kept about 40 ewes.

"My Mam ran a Bed and Breakfast from when I was about ten. I fell into what you could probably call the stereotypical role of helping my Mam with the B&B and the lads helped dad on the farm."

After studying makeup artistry, Linda worked in an outreach programme teaching film making workshops in disadvantaged areas. However, the recession saw the arts council funding cut and |in January, 2011 Linda found herself at home not sure where her future was headed.

"However my eldest brother was marrying an Aussie girl in Ireland that summer and I decided to stay with my folks for the months before in preparation for their return.

"That spring I helped with lambing ewes and calving cows and fell in love with being outdoors and working with my Dad. As the months passed the idea of working somewhere else became less and less attractive."

With her younger brother heading off to agricultural college and for all intents and purposes, the intended farmer, Linda knew she had to talk to him about how they would work together.

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"Gordon said he didn't think he would like to farm on his own like our own father had and we decided that farming together was the best option for us both.

"We also had the benefit of our dad still being a fairly young man himself so together all three of us set out to upgrade and expand our dairy enterprise. With the abolition of quotas we said fair well to the ewes and hello to an extra 35 heifers."

They also installed new 16 unit Dairymaster parlour in 2015 and a new silage slab was put in to make room for a new cubicle house that was completed in January of 2018.

"Our old milking parlour was converted into more calf pens for the increased herd size and an improved water system and larger troughs were installed with improved walkways for the cows when out grazing.

"We went into an official partnership in 2015 which gave us the opportunity to be eligible for a 60% young farmer grant on the cubicle house that we built."

The family is now milking 110 Montbeliarde cows and breed 15 pedigree stock bulls a year to sell along with surplus pedigree heifers.

Do we fight a lot?

"Many ask us how we all farm together and if we fight a lot. We all have our roles Gordon is great with machinery and maintenance and managing the cows diet in the winter. I try to keep on top of paperwork, calf rearing and breeding and Dad covers all areas and is our voice of experience. Which is a massive advantage for Gordon and I."

Gordon is home full time this year he has been part time for the past few years working with a local tillage farmer.

"I work as full time as I can with two kids, which keep her pretty busy and she admits finding a balance between work and family is always a challenge.

"Bringing the girls to work isn't always ideal but childcare doesn't really cover milking times and busy times so I'm very lucky that I have a very understanding brother and dad, as well as my Mam and in laws are a great support when I need a dig out."

The flip side of this, she says, means that during the summer when calving is done and cows are out grazing and things have quietened a little she does have the freedom to spend an afternoon with the kids or take a day off here and there.

"We do work for ourselves after all we have to have some down time too when things aren't so busy. I suppose being a woman these are things that maybe effect me more. Farming when I was eight months pregnant certainly had its bad days but I also felt it kept me active and helped me mentally while obviously always making sure I was being safe.

"But I must admit I have found that being a woman made no difference to me when it came to being a farmer. I never made a big deal of it, it was just the career I chose. Some times I got a few raised eyebrows but that's someone else's' issue with it not mine. I just want to farm as best we can in the situation we're in.

"I think farming is a great way of life and I would recommend it to any young farmer you just need to remember that it a way of life not a 9-5. Certainly I believe in running a dairy business but days off are few and the work is hard but it gives you back so much more when your willing to work at it."

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