Building and beef

Posted on: 9th March, 2018

Category: Farming

Contributor: West Cork People

In the midst of the rich fertile farmland of Barryroe, surrounded by dairymen, Barbara O’Donovan (nee Wycherley) has a small holding of 42 Limousin cattle on 75 acres of land.

Suckler farming is not an easy business to be in. According to the Teagasc National Farm survey, 38 per cent of Irish suckler farms are economically ‘vulnerable’. However, once there is an off-farm income, farms like this one are considered sustainable. Barbara and her husband Colm also run a successful construction business in the area, Fortfield Construction.

“Farming is simply a way of life for us,” Barbara explains “something our kids have developed great patience from. They’ve also learned that although money may be tight sometimes, it’s an obstacle you can always get over…and that hard work, whatever the weather, gleans results and rewards.”

Barbara is dealing with the added challenge at present of her herd being locked up with tuberculosis (TB). Three years ago, 16 of the herd were taken away after reactors were found. Apart from the financial loss, there is huge emotional trauma for a farmer when this happens.

“They took eight cows and eight weanlings, which was very upsetting, as I’d spent a long time breeding those animals,” explains Barbara. “And then when they were killed and tested afterwards, there was no sign of the disease.”

The badger population is thought to be the main cause of TB spreading. Vaccination of badgers has now become an integral part of the bovine TB eradication programme, which it is hoped will help to reduce infection in cattle.

Barbara is hoping that her herd will be given the all clear before September so the calves can be sold in October.

“It is getting harder and harder and margins are very tight,” she says. “We certainly couldn’t live on what we make from the farm. A lot of suckler farmers can’t afford to keep reinvesting in facilities, housing, new animals and so on. We’re lucky we have another income so we can maintain and develop the farm. However, if things continue the way they are and the suckler farmer doesn’t get any help, the quality of beef will keep going down.”

Although not from a farming background, when Barbara was growing up her mother kept a couple of cows and some sheep and pigs. One of 13 siblings, Barbara was the only one who married into farming. “I think the cows went when I was about six or seven,” recalls Barbara “my mother had her hands full enough with 13 of us to rear.”

Barbara’s mother had a big influence on her love of animals. “I remember her bringing young lambs into the kitchen when they were sick,” reminisces Barbara. “She’d place them in the bottom drawer of the range with a blanket and a bottle. When I was three or four, I’d take my empty bottle out to her when she was milking the cows. She’d fill the bottle straight from the teat of the cow. She also used to make her own butter.”

Barbara and Colm got married in their early 20s and started farming together when Colm inherited the family farm in Barryroe from his mother. The couple have two grown-up children.

Barbara laughs, “After I married Colm, my mother-in-law advised me not to go down the yard if I didn’t want to go into farming.

Needless to say, Barbara went down the yard!

The couple started with eight suckler cows and then decided to get some pigs. “We ended up with 15 sows, all outdoors, which was hard going,” says Barbara. “We had to draw the food out to them and sometimes you might get a sow having a baby outside. Then the price of pork dropped drastically so we got out of pig farming. We also did some tillage farming, barley and wheat, but the margin was very tight on that so after six or seven years we decided to concentrate on the suckler cows and breeding.”

The farm is registered with Bord Bia and although the audits are rigourous, Barbara feels it’s important to be inspected every 18 months. “Everyone’s on the same playing field,” she says.

After completing a course in Construction Studies by night, Barbara now helps Colm with the construction business as well. ‘We’re partners in life, building and the farm,” she says smiling.

The suckler farmer doesn’t own a passport. “I’ve no interest in going further than West Cork; maybe to Killarney for a couple of nights or up to Athlone to the Walderstown road races, as we both love motorbike racing, but that’s as far as we go usually,” she says.

Recently however the couple did invest in a two-person caravan and the plan is to make use of it this summer.

“Some people go golfing or have the GAA but Colm loves the farm,” says Barbara. Sunday is our busiest day, as the two of us are at it…cleaning yards, tagging, dehorning calves, checking the cows feet, tails etc.

“We’d like to retire on the farm… I can see the two of us pottering away over in the yard, hand in hand!” she says smiling.

Latest News Articles:

Sam Maguire School Tour launched
Fundraising drive to get Kinsale students to World Robotics Championships to Kentucky
Answer the Call to save lives on March 23
Clonakilty students return from trip of a lifetime to rural Malawi
Clonakilty Fairtrade Fortnight celebrates 15 years
€44 million to improve Cork roads
Clonakilty Access Group AGM hears of many frustrations and challenges for people with disabilities in the town
Schull student scoops top invention award at BT Young Scientist
Schull Garda Station wins ‘Leading Light in Road Safety’ award from Road Safety Authority
Go quackers at the 2018 West Cork Bird Race

Join us on Facebook


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
... See MoreSee Less

8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
... See MoreSee Less

20th February, 2018  ·  

Did you know..... ... See MoreSee Less

Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

Check out this new upbeat indie-folk track Edges, released today from Inni-K with a video by Myles O'Reilly. Inni-K will be performing at Levis’, Ballydehob on Saturday 24th February, with support from Sam Clague.
... See MoreSee Less

16th February, 2018  ·  

Jump to: