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Wednesday 20 September 2017

'Prophets of doom will get their comeuppance' - Farmer optimistic about outcome of Brexit

My week: Michael Dullea

Michael Dullea on the family farm at Kilmeen, Clonakilty, Co Cork. Photo: Denis Boyle
Michael Dullea on the family farm at Kilmeen, Clonakilty, Co Cork. Photo: Denis Boyle

Ken Whelan

Michael Dullea is optimistic about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and believes the prophets of doom will get their comeuppance when the prolonged talks on Britain's exit from the European Union are completed.

The beef and dairy farmer from Clonakilty is sanguine about all the talk of economic turbulence and firmly believes that "Ireland will weather the storm".

"Britain has always been our main agricultural market and that will continue to be the case, irrespective of what happens in these talks. The British will still have to import food when they leave the European Union. That's unlikely to change - we have been trading with them for generations and that is going to continue," says Michael with confidence.

At the same time, he also supports the current Government policy - and that of his own co-op, Lisavaird in Roscarberry - of aggressively seeking alternative markets.

But at the end of the day, he believes all the talk about hard and soft Brexits will come down to geography and established trading relationships.

"Sterling remains strong and here employment is on the way up. I think things will be all right when these talks are over," he adds.

At the moment, calving is the main preoccupation at Michael's 75ac home farm, with a further 50ac leased, near Kilmeen in Co Cork.

To date, a third of the cows have calved with no mishaps, but the work here is likely to continue to April.

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He milks 75 Holstein Friesians and is currently getting in the low 30s per litre from Lisavaird.

Michael also finishes around 40 calves to 24-30 months for ABP in Bandon.

The main pebble in his shoe at the moment is the increasing amount of paperwork which has to be completed by farmers for the Department and Bord Bia.

"It's increasing all the time and can take up about five to six hours of the week. You have to keep on top of it. It's nearly a full-time job in itself. The regulations being brought in just add to the workload on the farm. Paperwork…" he sighs.

"The bar is rising all the time. I am not saying it's a bad thing - you have to keep up with the technical side of things - but it is time- consuming," he adds.

Michael, who is in his mid-50s and married to Rose, who works off farm, is helped on the beef-dairy enterprise by his son Paul.

His other son, James, works with Lisavaird Co-op and the couple's two daughters, Rosemarie and Caroline, are away at third level in Limerick studying teaching and accountancy respectively.

Both Paul and himself are "not unhappy" with the milk price at the moment. "We're optimistic that it will improve this spring."

Off farm, Michael's main pursuits are the GAA and agricultural shows.

He is absorbed in the activities of his local GAA club in Kilmeen, having worn the shirt in his earlier years, but freely admits his play was not of a standard to wear red for the county.

"But I won a couple of junior medals nevertheless," he says.

His ability with the plough saw him win a County Championship, and turning the sod remains one of his passions.

Michael regularly attends ploughing matches, locally and nationally, to this day and admits to being an avid machinery man.


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