Farmers Feed Families launched a social initiative this summer to raise awareness of daily life in farms across Ireland. Each week Anne Brady of Farmers Feed Families will interview the tweeting Irish farmer on AgriLand.
This week’s tweeting farmer is Michael Finnegan from Boyne Valley in Co Meath. He farms a 260-acre mixed farm in partnership with his father. They have cattle, tillage and 300 dairy goats. He has been farming full-time in Ireland since 2005 when he took over the running of the farm after returning from New Zealand.
His wife is a nurse but also helps out on the farm, feeding the kids, trimming feet and helping with milkings. His younger brother often helps on the weekends too.
A growing market
I decided to get into dairy goat farming after I came home from New Zealand. We used to milk cows on the farm and this is what my interest was in. But the capital investment required, for us to do it the way we wanted, just did not add up. I was researching other enterprises and dairy goat farming caught my eye.
Glenisk was looking for new suppliers of goat milk as the market was growing. I went to see existing dairy goat units in Ireland and the UK. So in 2008 I built a greenfield site goat shed and started production. Goats are a friendly animal and lovely to work with. They are very smart and love to escape at any opportunity. Also, goats do not kid at night time, which is very handy.
Cheese and yoghurt
About 80 per cent of my milk is supplied to Glenisk for its yoghurts and liquid milk sales. I also have my own cheese Boyne Valley Blue, which is the only blue goat’s cheese of its type in Ireland. I supply small amounts of milk to some local cheese makers too.
Finding a balance
A challenging aspect of farming is trying to do get the balance of actual farm work and office work done. The increasing paperwork with the farming and food business really adds to the workload. Also, trying to get finance is very difficult at the moment. However, I love being my own boss. I am a young farmer and I see a great future in farming in Ireland. Living and working in the lovely Meath countryside is a pleasure.
Twitter for business
I’ve been on Twitter about a year and a half. It is a great way to speak to other people from all over the world about the things we do. I can learn from other farmers. For my cheese business it has been fantastic. Through twitter I have been exposed to chefs, buyers, hotels, restaurants and food bloggers from all over the place. It is a great way for me to spread the word of my product.