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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘We aim to drive numbers to 200 sucklers in the next 5 years’

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with James Herrick (31) of Folly Farm in Leicestershire, England, in part one of his interview in this week’s Suckler Focus segment. 

“I farm in partnership with my dad Eddie, and mum, Joanne and am a fourth-generation farmer. My great-grandparents farmed on a rented farm on a nearby estate until my grandad moved and bought the farm we live at today.

I have always wanted to farm, but I have previously worked as a sheep shearing contractor from my teens through until my mid-20s; however, I still keep my eye on a few now.

Also, I run a YouTube channel alongside the farm (@Baldysfarm) that shows the journey of me taking more of the day-to-day running of the farm etc.

140 sucklers, 450-acres

I farm full-time with 450-acres, with 400-acres mainly owned. My grandparents bought the farm in 1961 after moving from a  rented farm.

The rented farm was part of a large estate and was carved up by the building of the M1 and was due to be further dissected by the building of the M69 and the junction where they both meet.

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and they went in search of a new farm.

They had previously bought 70-acres around the time of the second world war at a nearby village called Thornton (6 miles), so they decided to look close by before settling on the farm we now call our own.

Over the years, they have added adjoining ground to help build the farm  to the size it is today.

Suckler farming

We are a suckler beef and arable farm and currently farm 140 suckler cows that are mostly British Blue-cross-British Friesian cows; however, we have recently started making the switch to Stabiliser cattle.

We calf in a spring block starting in March for twelve weeks; however, this year, we were 90% calved in five weeks, which will allow us to drop the breeding period down to nine weeks in the future for cows.

Going forward, we plan to only allow the heifers to go to the bull for six weeks to help select the most fertile animals to enter the herd.

All the young stock are finished on-farm, with bull calves kept entire and finished at 600-650kgs at 14-months-old, and heifers are grazed for a second summer and finished at 600-620kgs and 18 to 20-months-old.

Our Blue-cross cows have historically been sired Charolais bulls that are all chosen for their EBV data.

We have used EBVs to select bulls for over ten years now, with the ease of calving taking priority over carcass confirmation and growth rates.

Our cows are not big, with most weighing between 550-600kgs as mature animals. Recently, we have made a move to Stabiliser cattle to help simplify our whole farming system.

Stabilisers

In the past, we have tried to make our system fit our cattle, but moving forward,  we want a cow that fits our system, and Stabilisers do that for us.

They will give us the ability to out winter; they are highly fertile, easy calving, easy fleshing and easy to manage, making the perfect fit for our system.

This will allow us to maximise our stocking numbers per labour unit whilst also adding the ability for us to potentially produce bulls and heifers for sale in the future.

All our stock is rationally grazed, with groups moved daily to maximise grass growth and utilisation. We aim to drive numbers to 200 sucklers in the next 5 years.

Arable land

We have 200-acres of arable land; however, we are stockmen at heart and have already started to chip away at grassing more of it down by bringing herbal leys and red clover leys into the rotation.

We also grow winter wheat and winter barley for feed, with forage rye introduced this season for a large early-season silage cut followed by either maize or kale, depending on the weather.

Infrastructure and technology

We are blessed with a large number of concrete-floored cattle buildings. We do all of our feeding and bedding with a McHale straw blower which allows us to minimise our machinery cost and requirements.

Our other main piece of equipment is a Corvus UTV which does all of our cattle work in the field, including our daily fence moves.

We do all of our own silage work with a McHale baler, Kuhn mower and McHale wrapper and do all of our own arable work, too, with contractors only coming in to spread farm yard manure on our arable land.

We bought a 3-meter Claydon direct drill three years ago in a bid to help reduce our arable workload and improve our soil health.

This has been a really positive move that has helped us ride out the drought and unpredictable weather patterns that we have experienced since its purchase.

Dad has started to pass more of the management roles onto me over the last few years.

I do most of the yard work like feeding and bedding, artificial insemination, grass walking and drilling arable crops, whilst dad is in charge of moving mobs of cows in summer and driving the round baler etc.

However, a lot of jobs are shared between us, depending on who is available at the time.

We also work together a lot when working with cattle, both for safety, and as it is what we both enjoy. Mum does all of the office work and manages the banking (arguably the most important job).”

Fotojet 2023 05 15t163613.403 (1)

Part two of this interview to follow on That’s Farming.

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