Kerry farmer combines love of land with writing

Some day DJ McAuliffe may write a book, but in the meantime the Castleisland farmer is happy combining his love of the land with writing his blog and for a number of other online publications.

A suckler farmer based near Castleisland in Co. Kerry, he works with his wife Michelle on their home farm in Fahaduff which is around 160ac and an outfarm in Knocknagoshel that is approximately 75ac.

“Around half of the land is in permanent pasture and the rest is upland peatland. I was dairy farming for around 20 years on the home farm in Fahaduff but switched to sucklers in 2016 after the milk quotas were abolished,” said DJ.

Special area of conservation

“Our land was designated a special area of conservation for the hen harrier in 2007 and I felt the restrictions placed on the land and the land type in general, it would be hard for me to expand in dairying.

“I used to keep pigs for a number of years too but due to changes introduced in housing regulations and high feed costs I got out of pigs in around 2007,” DJ said.

Today, we keep a small herd of Highland cattle on the home farm and a few Belted Galloways. They are both hardy, low input, easy-calving breeds that can forage on poor-quality mountain grazing.

“I felt that they could stay out longer over the winter months which would keep feeding costs down. We also keep Kerry bog ponies on the outfarm.

“We keep dry dairy cows over the summer in a contract rearing agreement for another farmer,” said DJ.

Farming a good lifestyle

He started writing in the last year.

“I was studying digital marketing and affiliate marketing online and I built a website and started a blog around my own farm writing, mostly about my own experiences and opinions. I also added a product review section about some things that I bought and used on my own farm,” he said.

“I try to write twice a week for my own website and sometimes I would write a piece for other bloggers and they could write a piece for my website. I had a few pieces published online earlier in the year but due to studying digital marketing, writing for my own site and farming, I found my time to be very limited,” DJ said.

Topics he has covered range from farmer protests to the law on towing a trailer as well as his livestock. He has contributed to The Milk House, a collective of rural writing. He said that he writes whatever comes into his head and that he finds farming to be a good lifestyle.

I like being outdoors and working with animals but it has changed a lot over the years and a lot of farmers in the west of Ireland are now relying on off-farm employment and single farm payments to make a living. It can also be hard for single farmers working alone who might not meet anybody else during the day.

Interested in the whole area of digital marketing, DJ enjoys brushing up on his online skills. “For the moment I will keep writing and farming and if something new comes along sure I might try that too.”