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Saturday 24 June 2017

Dairy farmer/mechanic on the life on a part-time farm

My week: Michael Teahan

Michael Teehan feeding the cows on his farm at Kilcummin near Killarney. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan
Michael Teehan feeding the cows on his farm at Kilcummin near Killarney. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

Ken Whelan

It has been a quiet Christmas and New Year at Michael Teahan's dairy and beef enterprise in Kilcummin near Killarney, Co Kerry; with the cows dry and things tipping over nicely with the cattle.

Michael farms 65 acres and runs a herd of 40 British /New Zealand Friesians -supplying milk to the Kerry Group. He also rears a small amount of cattle for sale at the mart in the late Con Houlihan's territory of Castleisland.

He is ably assisted on the farm by his wife Martha whom he describes as a great help when it comes to the milking. Martha's assistance is all the more important given that Michael has an off-farm job as a mechanic with Kerry Coaches.

"It works out well. The company has 70 coaches and the work really begins in the spring time when I am on call for any mechanical breakdown. You can have awkward times.

"I remember one night calving and getting a call to go to Clifden in Co Galway to deal with a breakdown. But mainly it is routine stuff, so having Martha able to work the farm is great."

The couple have three children - Kelvin (21), who is finishing an Ag Science degree in Tralee IT; Connor(19) who works with a ventilation company in Killarney; and Laura (16) who, when not studying at her local school in Kilcummin, is busy winning All Ireland under age medals with the Kerry ladies county teams. So far Laura has three All Ireland medals at U-14 and U-16 levels in the trophy cabinet.

Dairy Farmer Michael Teehan, Kilcummin, Killarney, feeding his freisans, Michael usually milks 40 cows during the milking season. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
Dairy Farmer Michael Teehan, Kilcummin, Killarney, feeding his freisans, Michael usually milks 40 cows during the milking season. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

Michael took over the farm from his late parents, Pat Jo and Bridie, in 1999 and has seen the ups and downs of milk and cattle prices for nearly two decades now.

He believes that the milk price might hit the mid 30s this year.

"That's what I am hearing and there seems to be a lot of optimism on the milk price at the moment but at the end of the day we are a small player in a big global market."

"But on the cattle front the story is different what with Brexit and the downturn in the export of bull calves," he says.

"The cattle market depends on exports and I think Brexit will take time to sort out.

"The weakness in sterling is likely to continue and things are not being helped by the changes in the bull calf export market. I can see the poor livestock situation continuing for some time," he adds.

Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

Another issue which is occupying Michael at the moment is the recent tax demands from the Revenue Commissioners on Kerry Group farmers who hold 'patronage shares' in the co-op.

Though not affected personally, in his role as Co Kerry ICMSA chairman Michael is up to speed on the background talks aimed at resolving this unexpected demand from Revenue.

"The demand from the Revenue Commissioners is between €20,000 and €30,000 for some of the 400 affected farmers and it is an end of year bill they were not expecting especially when they thought their tax affairs were in order.

"Nobody wants a letter from the taxman at any time but especially not around Christmas. We will have to see how the talks between the farmers affected, Kerry Group and the Revenue Commissioners work out but that the type of bill nobody needs hanging over them," he says.

And Michael believes that the move by the Revenue Commissioners is bound to have an effect on similar patronage arrangements which other co-ops may have with their individual farmer members.

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