Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

‘I won’t be going back to conventional farming’

‘I won’t be going back to conventional farming’

Conor Dowling, his wife Helen and their boys Liam (12), James (10), Sean (8) and Matthew (3) live in the parish of St John’s, between Athlone and Roscommon. They farm sucklers, beef and tillage on 27ac. The farm is closed; only occasional bulls or rams are brought in for breeding.

“We entered conversion in 2021, becoming fully organic in 2023,” Conor said. “The only exception is the sheep enterprise, which is still in transition since last year.”

Conor admits he is fortunate to have some of the lighter, sandy soil in south Roscommon, suited to tillage. He grows oats, triticale, and winter barley and winter peas in combination. He sells the barley and peas mixture to an organic dairy farmer.

“I like that as an organic farmer you can experiment a bit. Even if a crop does poorly, you still have the organic payment.”

Conor is currently trying a combi-crop of winter oats and winter peas. He explained: “There is good by-pass protein in it for ewes pre lambing and the crop also qualifies for the supplement under the protein aid scheme. We are fortunate that there is quite a bit of conventional tillage nearby which means contractors are available. A combine must be cleaned before going into an organic crop. An organic crop is lighter than a conventional crop and is usually ready to harvest earlier, helping to spread the harvest for contractors.”


Conor, who works full time off farm, describes how when farming conventionally he and Helen, a physiotherapist currently on a career break, felt that they were on a merry-go-round, which involved carrying a lot of livestock. A lot of credit was needed to buy fertiliser and there was a heavy workload.

“Our animal sales are down a bit and we spend a bit more on contractors, as we have more dung to spread, but we have much lower fertiliser and meal costs. Half of the housing area must be straw bedded rather than on slats. With straw prices currently very high, this is a deterrent for many farmers. We are fortunate to have our own supply of straw. There is a little more labour needed in winter spreading straw under cattle,” he said.

Organic beef

Conor sold his first organically-produced cattle this January at 21 months. Carcass weights of 340kg and a beef price of €5.80/kg was achieved for Angus steers and heifers born to Limousin cows.

“They were fattened on red clover silage and barley and peas as a concentrate. In future I will keep them a bit longer as the prices for organic beef rise steadily during the spring,” added Conor.

“You have to live with a few more weeds about the place – generally the gate is closed after sowing until harvest, but we are happy with our move into organics. There is nothing to be concerned about, especially if you have good housing to start with. There is a bit more admin being in organic but it is essential. It protects the organic area payment, the farm profit and viability. I won’t be going back to conventional farming, Conor concluded.

This article was adapted from a larger article titled: ‘The Rossies are going organic…’ which first appeared in the March/April Edition of Today’s Farm and was written by Elaine Leavy, Enda O’Hart and Mark Moore. Access the full article here.