Saturday 1 October 2016

'I can see the day when most dairy farms are owned by co-ops'

My week: Eamonn Carroll, Loughmore, Co Tipperary, farmer and National Dairy Council board member

Ken Whelan

Published 06/04/2016 | 02:30

Eamonn Carroll from Loughmore, Co Tipperary.
Eamonn Carroll from Loughmore, Co Tipperary.

It's been a 'mental week' for Eamonn Carroll between getting the slurry out, finishing the hedges, organising the contractors to spread manure on the land and then belting up to Galway to give a continental bull the "once over" with a view to purchasing same.

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Eamonn farms about 200 acres at Loughmore in Co Tipperary, milking 90 Friesian crosses for Centenary Co-op in Tipperary and he also rears some 120 head of cattle which he sells at Templemore mart.

"I used to finish cattle but was plagued begging the factories to take them when they were ready to go. Now I sell them as stores at the Templemore mart," he told the Farming Independent.

The 42-year-old is, married to Anne Marie, a local school teacher and 'non farming wife' and he has been running the family farm for the past 20 years.

The couple have three children - Ronan (12), Darragh (11) and Caoimhe (5).

"The boys are a massive help around the farm feeding and helping with the animals," he says with the sure air of a man who knows the farm will remain in the family's hands for the next generation.

Eamonn enjoys what he describes as 'farming politics', but having served for six years at senior levels within the ICMSA up to a few months ago he is very clear about the demands implicit in representing a national farming organisation.

"The amount of time spent on association business was criminal. You were forever planning forward and thinking forward. It was draining," he says.

He is currently on a learning curve in his new role on the board of the National Dairy Council (NDC) which he sees as "another looking and thinking forward job."

His current priority with the NDC is the planned 'Health Fest' which the council is organising in Dublin in a few weeks' time as a celebration of the health merits of Irish dairy products

So wearing his various 'agri-hats'. what does he think about the short to medium term future of the dairy sector?

'I don't see anything good on the horizon at this moment in time which will give things a lift. I see nothing that is not downwards," he replies.

The predicted post EU quota bonanza was 'over sold' by both the Government and the agri industry and has not materialised, he claims and has led to a ''keeping up with the Joneses'' attitude among dairy farmers.

And the situation is not improved by the fact that neither the Government nor the European Commission seem to be doing anything constructive to address the oversupply situation.

And Eamonn, in a reference to the recent Glanbia €100m farmer loan scheme, says he can see the day arriving when most of the dairy farms here will be owned by the co-ops along the lines of New Zealand.

He says that many Irish dairy farmers will have to face the prospect of scaling back over the next few years in order to survive

"What's the point in running a 120, 140 or 160 herd of cows and having to employ extra labour when there is such an oversupply of product?" he asks.

Eamonn says the real leveller and adjustment for the milk market will come when the EU eventually get around to dealing with climate change and put limits on the farm carbon footprints.

"That will be the next market development but it could take five years," he adds.

So Eamonn, are you buying the continental bull? I ask.

"I'll think about it while I am having my breakfast here. Ask me when I am back in Tipperary," he replies.

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