As part of our Career Focus segment, That’s Farming speaks to Nathan Croke, who is a sheep and suckler farmer, UCD graduate, and livestock administrator at Grasstec.
Nathan Croke, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, runs a 30-cow suckler enterprise with his father and a flock of 170 lowland ewes across 100-acres in their main block with a further 100-acres in Kildare.
The 23-year-old UCD graduate is the sixth generation to farm their land in Co. Tipperary.
The duo has commercial cows, predominantly Charolais Hereford-crosses. They always had at least 20 cows but eight years ago, decided to increase to their herd to its current size, as Nathan’s father began farming full-time.
“We always use a stock bull which would have been Charolais or in more recent years, a Hereford. We AI replacement heifers to Limousin sires; however, we changed our breed of stock bull to Limousin this year and will use him on both cows and replacement heifers.”
“Usually, we start calving around the end of February and finish in May. We keep progeny until they are 18-20 months of age before selling them. The ideal traits we look for in our cows are good conformation, carcass weight and good milk traits.”
“We keep approximately up to six replacement heifers each year. Our culling policy comes down to the age of the cow and the health of her udder.”
Besides, they have a flock of 170 lowland ewes, with plans to increase numbers to 200 this year. The farm Charollais, Texel and Belclare ewes with a selection of Charollais, Belclare, Rouge and Beltex rams.
They operate an indoor lambing system, beginning in mid-February and ends in May. “We sell most of the lambs through the mart each year and keep roughly 35-40 ewe lambs for replacements annually.”
“Furthermore, we scan ewes which influences the amount of concentrates we feed in the 4–6-week period pre-lambing. The more lambs she is carrying, the more concentrates we will feed her.”
“It is vital that the ewe gets the correct amount of feed at this time as the lambs gain 75% of their birth weight in the last four weeks of pregnancy. Also, it helps prevent the ewe from getting twin lamb disease and ensures that the ewe is in the correct body condition for lambing.”
The Tipperary native studied agricultural science in UCD and graduated in 2019 with a degree in animal science.
After completing his undergraduate studies, he delved straight into the working world and secured employment on a Tipperary-based 400-cow dairy farm.
In March 2020, he began working for Grasstec Group. Nathan is presently a livestock administrator at the company, which provides livestock services, including sourcing, importing, and exporting dairy livestock for farmers in Ireland, UK, and Europe.
Farm-to-farm livestock agents link sellers directly with buyers on a no-sale, no-fee basis. Grasstec also offers farm mapping/ farmyard designs services and sells a range of products.
The firm provides a diverse range of dairy services and products to the agri sector throughout Ireland and the UK.
His role as livestock administrator involves dealing with the finance, transport, and logistical side of its livestock department. Nathan’s typical working day entails billing clients, who have purchased livestock or paying clients who have sold livestock, along with organising transport.
“The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing farmers who have purchased/sold livestock through us being delighted with the service they have received. The experience itself is brilliant, as you build up connections with client countrywide.”
“Grasstec has had challenges in recent times in terms of dealing with Covid-19 and Brexit as we have a large client base in the UK who import stock from Irish farms.” the sheep and suckler farmer added.
“In terms of my role within the company, these challenges have brought changes as I am currently working remotely. Due to Brexit, there is additional paperwork involved with exporting livestock to the UK. Overall, the process has been made straight forward by Irish and UK departments of agriculture.”
Nathan’s plan for the future is to progress his suckler and sheep enterprises. He hopes to possibly expand his farm on a part-time basis whilst working with Grasstec.
“My main advice to anyone looking to pursue an agricultural career is to make sure you have a keen interest in the sector. The great advantages of the agricultural sector are the wide variety of pathways available.”
“Finally, do not be afraid to take risks in trying out different methods that you think might improve your farm’s efficiency. Some might work great, and some might not, but it is the experience that counts. In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” the sheep and suckler farmer concluded.
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