Liam O’Donovan

Watergrasshill, Co. Cork
I work our farm in Watergrasshill, Co. Cork alongside my father Willie and my wife Rachel.
We have owned this land since the 1970s and have run a calf to beef system for many years, although recently we have branched out to include buying weanlings or stores and bringing them through to beef as well.
Over half of the cattle that we have on the farm are Herefords and they have proven to be a great breed to rear. They always have high levels of calf vigour, gain weight well and finish easily.
I operate a paddock system for grazing to maximise weight gain from the best grass and, because our land is quite dry, we are able to keep the cattle out until mid-November. The cattle are kept on rubber matted slatted sheds in the winter and are feed on our own silage that includes red clover, which we introduced onto the land quite recently. The heifers are slaughtered at around 20 months, while the steers are slaughtered at 24 months.

I currently take part in the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP), which is a scheme that is aimed at improving the efficiency of beef production through measured data being collected on the farm. This involves regular weighing of the Hereford beef animals to monitor, and ultimately improve, the performance and daily liveweight gain.

For the past five years our farm was part of the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) and this meant that we were required to complete a nutrient management plan and regularly take soil samples. We also take silage samples during the year to ensure that our animals are always getting the best quality forage.

Our children are still quite young, Billy (10), Jack (9) and Ellie (5) are not old enough to help out on the farm yet, but I hope they will enjoy farming in the years to come. Both the boys play with the local GAA club as well as being involved with their local Athletics club. They also enjoy swimming. As a family we like to get away for a break together every now and then, this is only possible because my father will run the farm in our absence, and I can relax knowing that it is in his capable hands.
I graduated from Kildalton Agricultural College with a green cert in agriculture which I put to good use on our own farm, but also in my work as an agricultural contractor. I work on other farms baling silage, spreading slurry, cutting hedges and reseeding. My father and I provide Low Emissions Slurry Spreading (LESS) to other farmers who want to maximise the benefits of recycling their farm nutrients while at the same time reduce ammonia emissions and have more accurate slurry spreading over every acre of land.

I think the biggest challenges we face on the farm going forward are input costs and lowering the farm’s carbon footprint. At the end having a healthy herd and healthy calves gives me immense job satisfaction.