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Saturday 10 December 2016

'It has been tough year on man and beast, the worst spring in 10 years'

Published 12/04/2016 | 02:30

PJ O’Keeffe on his farm in Callan, Co Kilkenny. Photo: Pat Moore
PJ O’Keeffe on his farm in Callan, Co Kilkenny. Photo: Pat Moore

It has been a difficult spring for "man and beast", according to dairy farmer PJ O'Keeffe.

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PJ (30) hasn't had much time for sleep in the past six weeks, with more than 270 calves born amid incessant rainfall and poor grass growth.

A year into the removal of quotas, PJ describes his attitude as "resilient" after the dip in the milk price has hit many farms hard over the past year, with last summer's good weather and strong grass growth being the only positives.

"Last year was no issue with the good weather. But this year is totally different - it's testing every skill on a farm. It has been a tough year on man and beast for the spring so far," he says on the farm outside Callan, Co Kilkenny.

"Since I started farming properly after I came home from New Zealand in 2005, it is the toughest spring that I've seen."

The young dairy farmer took over the farm from his parents John and Joan just 18 months ago, aged 28. Yet he's been following a rapid expansion plan that expanded the 162-acre farm from milking 72 cows in 2011 to 320 this year - with 400 targeted by 2018.

He explains that with the end of milk quotas in sight, they swapped over from producing a large volume of beef to concentrating solely on supplying milk to Callan Co-op.

Like many farmers throughout the country, he warns that "cashflow is really tight".

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"It is going to be until the May milk cheque before we really get our head back above water," he said.

Irish Independent



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