Catherina Cunnane speaks to Liam Barton, livestock agent at Grasstec.
Liam Barton may only be 24-years-old, but he already has significant agricultural experience under his belt.
The Laois native has embraced his strong family farming tradition and is currently working for Grasstec; a company serving the agricultural sector for twenty-five years.
His home enterprise was originally an estate farm divided by the land commission in the early 1900s. His great-grandfather was the first generation of the family to farm the land.
It was initially a horse stud with dairy and beef cattle in earlier generations, but it is a mixed beef enterprise in more recent times. The farm is currently in its final stage of a five-year lease of mixed tillage.
“From a young age, I have had a keen interest in farming and have always been involved in relief milking for local dairy farmers and machinery operations for local tillage/beef farmers,” Liam Barton told That’s Farming.
Liam completed his Leaving Cert in Our Lady’s Secondary School, Templemore, Co. Tipperary and studied the Green Cert in Kildalton College, Piltown, Co. Kilkenny.
After one year in Kildaton, he progressed into year-two of a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree programme at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).
From there, he completed a one-year extension in land management in agriculture to obtain his honours degree. In his final year, he completed a thesis project on soil nutrient management and fertility of Irish soils and Economic Breeding Index on dairy herds in Ireland.
After graduating from college, he continued working on two large-scale grass-based dairy farms over the summer period.
In August 2019, Liam began working with Grasstec as a livestock sourcing agent. Grasstec 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.
Besides, Grasstec also offers farm mapping, farmyard design and sells a range of products. The company aims to “assist the progressive farmer to achieve greater productivity in their farm business”.
“When I started working for the company, my main role was to engage with farmers that were looking to sell stock. Firstly, I had to gather relevant information and travel to view the groups. Finally, I had to capture pictures and videos to present them for sale.”
“I am now involved in the selling of livestock for the past twelve months with the Midlands and Leinster being my main areas. The job itself is a healthy divide of working 50% in an office-based environment and spending the remainder on-farm, travelling to various clients all over the country.”
“The main challenges I face is the ever-increasing demand for high-genetic merit dairy stock. A larger volume of new entrants and change of enterprises on farms in Ireland is putting a stronger strain on the availability of surplus dairy animals in the country.”
“Progressive farmers are putting more effort and thought into the animals that they are working with to make the system more viable in the long run.”
Like most businesses, Covid-19 “has and continues to throw a few obstacles in our path”, says Liam. He stressed the company has managed to adapt and overcome these to the best of its capabilities.
“We have a large customer base in the UK. Restrictions have prevented potential customers from travelling overseas to view stock.”
“To overcome this, we use IT to present stock via video calls, pictures and weighing of animals to give customers confidence in our service.”
With mart closures in the earlier half of 2020, Liam says the company experienced a local interest from new customers nationwide wishing to avail of farm-to-farm sale services.
“Our service makes the process of buying or selling stock secure and hassle-free,” Liam stressed.
“The most awarding aspect of my job is meeting farmers on the ground. The experience itself is priceless. You are getting firsthand feedback on various methods and practices on farms with various production systems.”
“It’s very easy to say from theory that everything will work, but there is a lot of invisible ink that you cannot read when sitting in the office.”
“Farmers are happy to work with us; our service is based on being fully transparent and supporting farmers to the best of our ability. This makes for a delightful work environment. The connections I am making every day, all over the country, will be there for life, which is paramount.”
Liam’s plans are to hopefully establish a dairy herd on the home platform when conditions allow.
“It’s a big change that won’t suit everyone, but the passion for the job needs to be there. I enjoy the work I am doing with Grasstec and I don’t want to make a decision that will jeopardise that.”
Furthermore, he would also be interested in travelling to New Zealand, Germany and America to gain an insight into dairy systems across the waters.
Parting words of advice
He has advice for those who are setting their sights on a career in agriculture.
“My main advice to anyone looking to pursue a career in agriculture is to have a keen interest in the sector first.”
“Secondly, make plenty of connections within the sector through social events, hosted by Macra na Feirme, for example. Get experience with people already working in the sector. Lastly, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and to travel when the times allow.”
“To conclude, Grasstec is a progressive company and I look forward to making more connections and conducting business deals with farmers in Ireland, the UK, and Mainland Europe,” Liam concluded.
If you wish to buy or sell dairy livestock, contact Liam on 087-6996995.
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