Transitioning from playing professional rugby to full-time farming

Former Irish rugby international Rory Best has embraced the farming life after bringing his professional rugby career to an end in 2019.

After 124 appearances for the Ireland international rugby team, the Armagh native returned to the family farm near Poyntzpass to help his father, John, and his brother, Simon, in the running of the farm.

Rory spoke about the transition back into farming after 15 years of senior rugby with Ulster and Ireland.

He explained: “The transition from rugby to full-time farming has been reasonably good. I’ve really enjoyed it. Even though the lockdown period, in account of Covid-19, was really difficult for everyone, I think for me, personally, transitioning at this time meant I had no other distractions.

I wasn’t being pulled to events to do with rugby. This, in turn, meant I could focus on farming and getting work done around the farm. Basically, it gave me time to readjust and get fully involved in the family-run enterprise once again.

“I have enjoyed it getting back into it; it’s something I have loved doing since I was ‘no-age’.

“So to be able to get back involved has been great.”

Pedigree Aberdeen Angus herd

Rory went on to talk about the system in place on the farm and about his pedigree Aberdeen Angus herd and how dairy herds are keen to use Angus bulls.

He said: “We could be running – at any one time – from 140 to 150 head of cattle.

“We calve the cows down in March and we are try to get them away [the calves] the following July or August, as young bulls; the majority of which end up in dairy herds.

It’s a good system; it works well for us to calve in very early in spring to get them onto their feet and out onto grass as soon as possible.

“To be successful we’ve got to get and keep our fertility high and that’s a big thing for us. If we can get a calf a year from every cow and get them weaned at ‘half body weight’ going into the housing period we will be happy.

“Ease of calving is a big thing for us. A lot of our bulls go into the dairy herd because dairy farmers don’t want to be pulling big calves out and we don’t want that either here on our farm.”

Use of Herdwatch

The Herdwatch app has been “invaluable in the day-to-day running of the farm” according to Rory.

He added: “I chose to go with Herdwatch because the phone is something you have with you at all times. I’m able to pull the phone out at any time to check stock and check for anything that needs to be done – such as weight recording.

Ultimately, it’s the simplest way to keep records. for example. You’re not writing down on scraps of paper, it’s whoever has got the phone – they register any information that needs to be recorded.

“The big change is that it’s done then and there. It’s straightforward and, for me, when I was still playing rugby, I was able to pull the phone out of my pocket and keep in the loop and get jobs done.

“One major benefit is the weight recording. It is really important for us and the great thing is that my father and I can do it together. When we are weighing our calves, we can input the weights into the app and it gives you the daily live weight gain for each one.”

Rory added: “The calves are registered and tagged straightaway, so that we don’t forget about it.

“If you have any issues you can phone Herdwatch. They can sort it out remotely as well and talk you through what you need to do, so for me the support you get is invaluable.”

Download Herdwatch Now

Herdwatch is used by over 12,500 farmers in Ireland and the UK and saves farmers an average of three hours per week on paperwork.

The Herdwatch app is available to download for free on the Apple App Store and Android Play Store. A free plan is available for all farmers, with yearly PRO memberships starting at €79 (+VAT).

For more information, visit: www.herdwatch.com.

To download the Herdwatch app click here.