As part of this week’s Career Focus, That’s Farming speaks to Liam O’Donnell, a suckler farmer Mountbellew Agricultural College/GMIT graduate and agronomist at Grassland Agro.
Liam O’Donnell (24) runs a 20-cow suckler enterprise with his father, Sean, whilst working as an agronomy advisor at Grassland Agro.
The duo, who hail from Cloone, Co. Leitrim, farm mainly Charolais-cross-Limousin and Limousin-cross-Belgian Blue females.
“Cows mainly calf in springtime with some in autumn. It would not be that compact of a calving season. We sell bull calves as weanlings and keep some heifers as replacements.” The third-generation farmer told That’s Farming.
“We use AI sires on the farm, the majority of which are Charolais, with the main aim to have a quality calf for sale as a weanling.”
Feeding, dosing and grassland management are Liam’s primary responsibilities on their farm. “I am most passionate about grassland management; I just love to have the ground looking immaculate and lush green grass for cows and calves in summer.”
“Ground conditions can be challenging at times; we would have heavyish ground and, our cows would be 800kg plus, in some cases so, so managing that can be challenging,” added Liam.
Liam studied a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Environmental Management at GMIT/Mountbellew. He enrolled in the four-year degree programme in 2015 and graduated in 2019.
“I knew the course was much more practical. It was actually the only course I put down on my CAO entry. If I did not get it, I would not have lost any sleep, but I am very glad that I did get it now.”
“I completed my placement on the Teagasc Research Demonstration farm in Athenry. It was a great experience, particularly working alongside Dr Philip Creighton on grassland management.”
“He certainly was a great influence, as were the other farmworkers. There is no doubt they helped me progress in my career. I entered the working world straight away after graduation. I had a few different interviews completed before gaining my current role, and those interviews certainly stood to me.”
Liam is currently an agronomy advisor at Grassland Agro, a position he moved to fill in October 2019. Grassland Agro sources, produces, and sells a complete range of conventional commodity fertilisers and a range of speciality fertiliser and soil conditioning products.
Besides, Grassland Agro sells a full range of animal mineral blocks as well as bio-stimulants.
“I am responsible for the sale and advice of products in the Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, and North Roscommon region. My day entails calling to both farmers and merchants in my area with products that farmers need. Furthermore, I may be soil sampling and completing fertiliser plan for farmers.”
“Meeting farmers is what gets me through the day. Most days, you meet a new farmer with a different story to tell. I also like to see what ideas some farmers have on their farm and maybe bring it home to help on my home farm.”
“Meeting my sale targets in my first year in this position was my highlight, particularly when it was a position I had no previous experience doing.”
“I would not do anything differently if I could turn the clock back; every day is a school day in this job. That is what I like, learning new things and gaining more experience.”
Liam is optimistic about the industry’s future and believes agricultural graduates like himself “should be able to drive on Ireland as a top sustainable country in the world”.
“I went whatever way the path took me, and thank God; it is looking after me. From the day I started in GMIT/Mountbellew to now has been a great experience.”
“The one thing that stands out for me is meeting new people. I did not know anyone starting in the same course as me and, now I have gained lifelong friends.” the Mountbellew Agricultural College/GMIT graduate added.
“Always go for something that interests you and have a passion for. Remember, if at first, you do not succeed, try and try again,” Liam concluded.