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Young farmer focus: Orla Kelly, 22 - 'Small victories continually encourage my passion for agriculture'

Orla Kelly, 22, is a third-year student in agricultural technology with professional studies at Queen’s University Belfast and CAFRE.

She has an active role on her family’s farm with 70 suckler cows and 100 ewes, all progeny finished. She is also the current Beef Shorthorn Cattle Society Beef Student of the Year.

 

Family farm: I have had an active role in my family farm for as long as I can remember. I have helped progress the unit from owning my first lamb aged four, to calving my first cow at 13.

 

These small victories continually encourage my passion for agriculture.

 

Together with my father Eamon, we are developing the farm to become more structured and organised by simplifying methods; we are aiming to be more efficient and sustainable in the long-term to counter the many challenges and uncertainties facing the sector post-Brexit.

 

We are open to new ideas and opportunities to develop new strategies, and we firmly believe in benchmarking.

 

We are currently converting the suckler herd from Continental to native bred cattle to reduce feed costs and potentially achieve higher profits from the premium price received per kilogram.

 

Farm performance has significantly improved. Suckler cow gross margin has increased by 57 per cent in the last six years and the number of lambs sold per ewe has increased from 1.44 to 1.68 in the same period.

 

Suckler cow fertility has improved by implementing a strict culling policy with a 25 per cent replacement rate, while calving index has reduced from 399 days in 2009 to 376 days in 2017.

 

I am a benchmarking data collector for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. I visit farms and collect data for collation into key performance indicators.

 

After leaving school I studied a foundation degree in agriculture with rural studies at CAFRE Greenmount Campus, before completing a placement on a dairy unit with a robotic milking system before entering my current degree in the second year.

 

Placement: I am currently on a one-year work placement with Linden Foods, Dungannon, which processes about 1,600 cattle and 3,000 lambs per week.

 

I am working with state-of-the-art technology and learn about supply and consumer requirements.

 

With 49 per cent of finished prime beef cattle falling outside the specification, I am concluding a great deal more communication is required across the whole supply chain, from farmer to processor to consumer.

 

Career: Both working on the family farm and my placement at Linden Foods are helping shape my career path.

 

I hope to pursue a career in the meat processing sector, possibly in the supply chain or procurement while maintaining an active role in the family farm and continuing to improve its efficiency and sustainability by tailoring the business according to current market demands.

 


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