Business Farming

Friday 30 September 2016

Dairy farmer Donald Scully's simple philosophy is a useful one

‘My Week’ - Donald Scully, Ballyhyland, Co Laois - Dairy Farmer

In conversation with Ken Whelan

Published 02/02/2016 | 12:11

Donald Scully ICMSA
Photo: Kieran Clancy © 12/1/2016
Donald Scully ICMSA Photo: Kieran Clancy © 12/1/2016

Donald Scully has a simple philosophy – ‘’the sun isn’t going to shine everyday when you wake up’’ and it’s a useful philosophy to have when you are getting 24c/l for your milk.

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“If you have no debt and no land rentals to meet and no requirement for re-investing in the farm then you might be able to ride it out on the current milk price.

“I am not a bit happy with the average price I am getting from Glanbia at the back end of a very good year. It is depressing.

“We are not in touch with reality when it comes to the cost of milk production,” the 44-year-old father-of-three young children sighs.

Donald runs a dairy farm at Ballyhyland a few miles from the former site for the National Ploughing championship site in Ratheniska, Co Laois. He has a herd of 150 Pedigree Friesian Holsteins grazing across the 125ac home farm and a further 120ac of rented land.

They are ‘serious cows’ milking about 7,000 litres a head and they are rated ninth in the national EBI tables with an average figure of 218.

The home farm has been in the family across three generations and Donald took over developing the farm when his father, Pat, handed over the reins when he took early retirement in 1994.

“I had just finished at Rockwell and my dad, who was a progressive farmer, decided it was time to retire and hand the farm over to his only son. He still does a bit around the farm,” said Donald, explaining that for the most part it is a one-man operation.

His mother Kathleen, who was the one who had inherited the farm, had to leave her job as a civil servant with the Department of Posts and Telegraph as per the ‘marriage rules’ in those days. “She does a bit of part-time work now and I think she would have worked in the civil service to this day if the rules were different back then.”

Donald has fond memories of the now closed Rockwell Agricultural college. “I liked my time at Rockwell. It was a commercial farm through and through and was run on commercial lines. It was not subsidised by the Government and did not have the bells and whistles which go with those colleges.

“But what it did was produce commercially minded farmers,” Donald remembers.

But they were the ‘yesterdays’ and seemed far away  last week when he had to painstakingly sort out the feet of his pedigree herd.

“The cows have been in crates for the past few days with their legs out and their feet being pared.

“You don’t want their feet to drop when you have to get them up and running in February.

“I think it is good agricultural practice though some mightn’t agree,” said Donald, who brought two local lads in for the day to help with the paring.

So I ask Donald when he is not milking the cows what does he do for pastime.

“Well I like rugby. The eldest Colin (10) plays with Portlaoise rugby club and I go to most of his games and practice.

“And myself and my wife Miriam, who is a secondary school teacher in Mountrath, also take an interest in the music and always attend concerts where the two young daughters Niamh (8) and Grainne (6)  are playing their violins. But mostly it’s rugby — Ireland and Leinster.”

So what does he think of Ireland’s chances in the upcoming Six Nations Championships. He simply sighs.

Although he doesn’t say it, you get the distinct impression that the national team’s chances are as good as the milk price getting better in the short-term.

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