From Germany to Cork: A Young Farmer’s Dairy Dream Comes to Life!

"Young German Farmer Pursues Passion for Agriculture in Ireland's Dairy Industry"

Rikki Bayer, a young German farmer, is now in her second year of owning a dairy farm in Ballythomas, Co. Cork. Although not originally from a farming background, she said her early interest in animals was fostered by her parents which saw her complete a degree in agriculture years later. In the summer of 2021, an ad for a Land Mobility Service opportunity for long-term lease to a young farmer with experience in robotic milking piqued her interest.

From Germany, Canada and Australia… Rikki remembers spending family holidays on farms in northern Germany when she was only five years old, helping to milk the cows and feed the calves – which she absolutely loved. Growing up, Rikki knew that she would love to do something farming related. Despite looking at different sectors she said “it always ended up being dairy cows in the end”.

During her time at university, she completed an internship on a research farm as part of the animal welfare programme at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Speaking to Agriland, she said that farming systems in Germany and Canada are fairly similar; they are high-input, high-output systems where cows are housed and calved all year around. While working in Australia, however, Rikki first experienced a pasture-based system, and the principle of cows walking to feed instead of bringing the feed to the cows really resonated with her.

Back in Europe, the young farmer began looking at the Irish grass-based system. Through her work on a large dairy farm in Germany, Rikki got to know a few Irish farmers and took opportunities to travel to Ireland. The northeast of Cork, she said, is the part of Ireland she particularly fell in love with, and also where she was offered a job. In August 2018 Rikki left Germany behind and moved to Ireland.

After having worked on a few different farms in Ireland, Rikki took over a dairy farm in Ballythomas in January 2022, where she now milks 130 cows and rears her own youngstock with help form the landowner and her partner. Recalling the land mobility process, she said that it is a platform to provide opportunities for young farmers to get a leg up but also to be paired with farmers where there is no succession.

Talking about her own experience, she said it was a really good match in her case. The landowner does all the tractor work and set up fences, which Rikki said provides a lot of relief. The arrangement to remain involved in the business was very important for the landowner she said, adding that his advice is very helpful. “He loves farming but he wanted to step back from it as well,” she said.

Speaking about her dream of running her own dairy farm, Rikki said when she first started she couldn’t get into farming because she had no farming background. Getting access to land or a farm was also something she always thought was very difficult, until she was “proven otherwise” she said. “It was something that I thought was never going to happen until this opportunity came and I grabbed it with both hands. It’s basically a dream come true.

“Seeing cows walk out to grass, grazing fresh, lush grass and just seeing cows out on the field – it just has something to it,” she said.

Rikki changed the production pattern from a spring-calving herd to split spring and autumn calving. While she believes there is a point for every system, Rikki prefers the grass-based system. “It is hard work every day but it is really worth doing it,” she said.

Categories: Agriculture