Kildare young farmer: ‘Farming makes little money’

This is Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with young farmer Keith Whyte (22), Newbridge, Kildare, in this week’s Farmer Focus.

“My interest in agriculture started from childhood. I have always had a keen interest in farms and machinery and was introduced to sheep farming at a very young age as my uncle Joe always kept a handful of sheep.

I am a first generation farmer, Joe has always had a few sheep and he took a long term lease on the common land I took over at 16 when he went from owning a few sheep to building a flock and breeding. several pedigree breeds.

I then went on to acquire more land which I leased for a long time.

To increase the number of the flock, I kept replacement ewe lambs every year and went to many marts, where over time I have accumulated a flock number of about 80 breeding ewes and 3 rams, and I always have a handful of rams. the lambs I fattened and sent to March.

In addition to building my farm, I have always worked in the breeding industry as a stud hand and later became a stallion hunter.

Farming life

I have always worked full time to earn money to start a farm. I got the herd count when I was 18 and the cattle when I was 20.

My fiance Kate has a big role in the day-to-day operations of the farm and the health of the animals. My great uncle Joe is also interested in farming and helps feed and sell the animals.

I am currently farming part-time as I work to earn more money to build the farm and save money to invest back into the farm.

I currently own 6.5 hectares of land and am currently renting another 28 hectares.

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From dairy veal to beef

I currently raise a handful of Friesian bull calves from calf to beef; I usually buy a few calves in the spring and fatten them up in the summer and sell them in October until the winter.

I also have two pedigree Hereford heifers that are matched to Angus bulls that we will calve in May.

This year we chose Angus bulls so the heifers would have an easy first calving experience; we plan to put Hereford bulls on them to have breeding calves next year.

I have been new to cattle for the past two years; started with breeding calves, then I kept two of those calves, they are now in calf.

I raise my own cattle that I work to breed beef to produce better quality animals.

Sheep farming

On the sheep side of things, I have recently become involved in breeding sheep to maximize profit from lambs. As well as our commercial Cheviot sheep flocks, I have converted to pedigree Texels and Jacobs.

In all, I have a few breeding Texel ram lambs, which I will sell as hoggets next year; likewise, breeding with Jacobs will take place until next year.

I also have about 20 commercial ram lambs that are a cross of Suffolk, Cheviot, Kerry Hill and mountain type lambs and will be selling those ram lambs in the next few weeks.

Lambing runs from February to May – we start with a breeding flock of Texel and Jacob ewes to give them and their offspring full attention and help them to lamb successfully.

The commercial flock lambs from March to April and we finish lambing our last year’s ewes in May to give them time to successfully lamb. This means that they are about 14 months old when they first lamb.

In addition to our cattle and sheep, we have 2 thoroughbred mares that we are buying a foal from this year and plan to sell at the country game foal sale in December.

I don’t get any farming payments because I don’t have the chance to complete the Green Certificate because I work.

Currently, the farm gives me a small profit every year, which is starting to increase as I invest more in the farm every year.

Gaining access to land

The biggest hurdle I faced as a young farmer would be trying to get a place to graze and trying to compete with bigger farmers because my competition is very difficult as a young farmer.

Inflation is now a problem for farmers as the price of everything like feed is increasing. Factory and market prices have not increased enough to make a healthy profit.

What I like most about farming is being outdoors and being around animals. I also have a passion for sheepdogs, so I love farming the land and working with my dog ​​Lil.

I bought Lil from a good sheepdog trainer two years ago and she has strong pedigrees including Ballyglass Lassie and Karven Dave. Silt is one of my strongest assets on the farm.

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I am satisfied with what I have been able to build on my own so far in terms of herd and herd numbers. However, in the future I would like to continue to expand the numbers where full-time farming is profitable.

I would like to expand the cattle side of the business a bit and see my suckler herd grow to where I am producing the best quality animals for beef so I can make higher margins.

The future of agriculture in this country, I think, is very difficult. In order to increase the number of young farmers in the country, the larger farmers should be restricted in terms of land and number of animals so that the young small farmer can grow and be profitable.

I don’t think farmers are rewarded enough for the quality they produce.

With the current prices of feed, land and fertilizer, it is very difficult to raise high quality animals, which depends on how the animal is produced.

I’m happy with the farm I’ve built so far and I’m happy with cattle because I enjoy dealing with cattle and they make a better income than sheep.

Kate is currently pregnant with our son; it will arrive in December. “Eventually, I hope to farm with my son and hopefully be able to hand over a successful and profitable farm to him when it comes time to take over.”

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