The Next Gen Herefords organised a tour of the Country Crest farm on Sunday 24th April. The tour was hosted by the owner of the farm and company; Gabriel Hoey and the cattle farm manager; Niall Maguire. The weather was favourable for the day with a mild easterly breeze but plenty of sunshine.
The group were given a very warm welcome by Gabriel and Niall on arrival. Gabriel gave a run through where the business began. Gabriel and his brother; Michael left school at an early age and began farming on 65 acres. Together, they worked hard and built the business upto what it is today. The operation at Country Crest currently consists of a tillage enterprise, cattle enterprise and convenience foods enterprise. They are currently finishing 2,000 head cattle each year alongside their Pedigree Hereford and Pedigree Angus herd. The core of this business is the tillage enterprise where they mainly grow cereals with circa 300 acres of potatoes and 100 acres of onions. Country Crest are the sole suppliers of onions to Tesco and circa 96% of the potatoes grown on farm are sold to the domestic market. The Hoey family also run Ballymaguire Farm foods which produces between 16 and 20 million ready meals each year. Overall, Country Crest currently employ 400 staff which is considerable growth for the Hoey family over the past 40 years. The group were introduced to several farm managers and employees on the day who are instrumental in the running of such a successful business. Gabriel spoke about how it is important for young people to be educated and that leaving school early is not the answer but also how important it is for every young person to realise and use the gifts they possess.
The farm manager, Niall Maguire, then gave a detailed overview of the cattle farm before taking the group on a farm walk through the feedlot. The feedlot is mainly filled with Limousin and Charolais Cross heifers. The company used to finish traditional bred cattle off grass but this year they decided against that given the margins involved. Niall stressed that if something doesn’t work it’s important to change and adapt. Niall discussed the diet of the finishing cattle and the importance of minerals in the diets. When cattle are bought in, they’re quarantined, weighed, dosed and vaccinated before joining the main group. Lighter stock are let out to grass for a time until they make the weight of 550kgs when they will then be housed and finished. Cattle are generally slaughtered after 70 days in the herd or 60 days depending on Bord Bia Quality Assurance requirements.
Following the tour of the feedlot the group walked through the farm to take a look at the pedigree Hereford herd. The herd is relatively new – made up of Ballyaville bred dams and crossed with Moyclare Phoenix to produces this year’s crop of calves. The aim for the herd is quality not quantity – the Hoey’s want to run a small herd of top-quality Hereford cattle.
They Hoey family were very generous and laid out an excellent spread for lunch for the whole group. After lunch, the group were given a tour of the heifers that were recently purchased and were out at grass. The group also seen the Pedigree Angus herd and their new Angus stock bull. To top off the farm walk we seen the herd of Highland cattle which currently reside on the farm also.
The Hoey’s again treated the group to tea/coffee and cakes and a chance to chit chat before the group dispersed.
Many thanks are extended to the Hoey family, Niall Maguire and the staff of Country Crest for welcoming us into their yard and farm and pulling out all the stops along the way. The group had a great day and was more than impressed with the operation at Country Crest. We wish the Hoey family continued success with all their endeavours.