In this week’s Farmer Focus series, It’s farming interviews Dermot Colreavy of Bodeen Belties. We discuss how he became involved in his farming career, his choice of Belted Galloways, the importance of grassland availability, his plans for the future and a personal vision for the next CAP strategic plan which should be deployed in 2023.
After taking over the family farm from his late father, Dermot established his herd on 16 acres in Ratoath, Co Meath.
He is a part-time farmer alongside his off-farm work at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine in Dublin Port.
Dermot’s farming career began ten years ago. He is a first generation farmer, his father not actively cultivating the land.
“My late father bought the land 35 years ago. He always rented it out until I took it over and started cultivating myself about 10 years ago after leaving college.
His farming career began by buying up to 20 weaned chicks in March and reselling them in November. In recent years, Dermot has begun finishing cattle.
Dermot’s herd, known as the Bodeen Belties, consists of two registered purebred Belted Galloway cows, a yearling heifer and the newest addition is a 3 week old young bull named Bobai.
“The calf brings great excitement and a milestone as it is the very first calf born on the farm.”
He established the Belted Galloway herd in May 2021.
Dermot first introduced a purebred cow, Helena, alongside a 6-month-old heifer, Isla, and a two-year-old purebred heifer called Willow, to the herd.
He procured the animals with the help of another enthusiastic Belted Galloway breeder, John Mc Hugh, Co. Roscommon.
“I guess I always had a vision to build a thriving suckler herd of purebred cattle.”
“Over the years of buying cattle, I’ve always thought about how I’d like to have a closed herd and start my own successful cattle business,” Dermot said. It’s farming.
After conducting extensive research on various breeds, he decided that the Belted Galloway would be the best fit for his farm.
“As well as being visually pleasing to the eye, these animals have tough double coats, which are ideal for wintering.”
“They are polled and, especially to me, are known for calving ease and have very good maternal instincts.
As a small operation, Dermot puts a lot of emphasis on sourcing high quality, well-bred cattle.
It will continue to use AI, while the number of breeding animals held at Bodeen Belties is low.
“I’m aiming to have three breeding females in June and calve them in March.”
“A condensed calving window is critical to the success of this herd. For me, working off-farm with a small number, I need to have animals that calve together to plan holidays and be present during those days.
When asked about his ideal type of cow, Dermot said It’s farming“What I’m looking for is a calm, well-behaved animal that can raise a healthy calf every year, it’s quite simple.”
The future of young people
While the herd is still in its infancy, Dermot has plans in place for the offspring.
“Heifers that are born on the farm over the next few years to build up numbers. The males will potentially be sold as purebred bulls.
“Otherwise, I want to explore market access routes for Beltie beef. I wish I could tell a story of the animal and build relationships over the years.
Dermot believes there has been a shift in consumer attitudes so new trends have emerged regarding how people want their food produced. This includes organic and green production, sustainable food, animal welfare, etc.
Like many farmers, especially this spring, Dermot is taking extensive steps to maximize grass availability on his farm.
“I place a high value on grassland management because it makes up almost 100% of the Beltie’s diet.”
Rotational grazing is implemented on the farm throughout the grazing season; fertilizer is applied in small amounts. Probably, no fertilizers will be used in the spring of 2022.
“I am currently looking to incorporate clover into the grass to reduce nitrogen input. I apply lime in January at 2 t/acre.
“The Galloway is an animal that is slow to mature. This means that its beef has a special flavor and texture, which can be obtained from the grass alone. »
CAP 2023 outlook
Dermot, who is an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Navy, sees the impact of the changes to come, influenced by the next CAP.
“Farmers want to cultivate; they are resilient people.
Dermot tells It’s farming the importance of involving all stakeholders in the deployment and participation of the remaining measures.
“They require policy makers to build on technical knowledge and implement change in the form of top-down approaches that have been thoroughly researched.”
“Advisors will play a key role in implementing these changes on an individual’s farm.”
Dermot stresses the importance for a farmer to be able to visually identify changes implemented on systems similar to their own, which is likely to drive greater adoption of innovations.
The future at Bodeen Belties
Dermot’s positive farming experience so far has motivated him to take a positive view of the farm’s future plans.
“Almost a year after starting my Belted Galloway business, I am very happy with how it has gone so far. My experience of them is that they are a lovable, docile and easy to manage animal.
In saying this, he set goals to build on and improve upon.
“On the farm, I would like to improve the genetic merit of the herd, maintain high breeding standards by accessing the best genetics available to me in the Belted Galloway breed.”
“Apart from the farm, I am currently undertaking a Masters in Extensive Agriculture and Innovation in UCD.”
“It gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in research by educating and equipping myself with the skills and knowledge to implement consulting strategies.”
Dermot concludes: “The agricultural sector in Ireland is at a critical point as the industry faces a number of challenges. Mainly in the form of environmental, economic and consumer attitude changes.
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