'We should be upping production of cheeses and butter'
Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30
It was "a rainless Christmas" for Denis Drennan who took advantage of "the quiet times" on his Co Kilkenny farm and flew out to Paris for a short break.
"The cows were safely in and the farm was tidied up so I took a short break. Not a drop of rain during the break in Paris and I come back to Hurricane Frank and flooding all over the pace. I was fortunate not to be affected but there has been some terrible flooding in Co Kilkenny," says Denis.
The 40-year-old, who is also the chairman of the Kilkenny Leader company and an active ICMSA member, took over the 100-acre family farm when his father, Michael, fell ill 20 years ago.
"My father had a stroke when he was 64 years of age and as the only son it fell to me to keep the farm going. Dad is in a nursing home now and I live on the farm with my mother, Maura," he explains.
His two sisters work off- farm - Joan as a nurse and Marie as an accountant.
The farm, which is located just three miles south of Kilkenny city, runs a herd of 70 British Friesians and despite all the hype about the dairy sector being the future of Irish agriculture Denis takes this prediction with copious amounts of salt.
"I'm getting around 24c/l plus 1c from the co-op for milk that is produced for over 25c/l. That's a loss and I don't see things improving in the short term. And I don't believe all these predictions about exporting our dairy ingredients and powders to places like China.
"My view on dairying is simple - when the price is low you cull and when the price rises you drive on," Denis says with a conviction which is not for turning.
"I accept that the Chinese market is still growing but at a much lower rate. What happens when that market stops growing?" he asks.
"Yet everybody seems to be thinking in terms of infant formula and ingredients and all the new steel which is being built is for dryers to manufacture powders and formula. I think we should be thinking in terms of upping our production of cheeses and butter," he says.
A hurling enthusiast, who played for St Kieran's in Kilkenny in his school days, quips "the hurlers come from the good lands and the footballers from the bad lands".
His career was cut short when, fresh out of Kildalton Agricultural College, he began to manage the family farm.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't do his bit for the county. He has been chairman of the Kilkenny Leader company's for the past three years and is currently spearheading the company's bid to retain control of the local EU rural development programme.
The opposing bid from the new LCDC in the county - one of the local authority led rural development entities created by fellow country man, Phil Hogan when he was Minister for the Environment - has asked for an extension of time to draw up its bid so a decision from the Custom House on Kilkenny is not expected before February.
Denis is worried about how these European funds are being distributed at the moment - Kilkenny has had its allocation cut from €13m to €7.9m and what's more Kilkenny city is now included as part of the rural development catchment.
He sees the cutbacks and allowing a city to qualify for this much need rural funding as being against the spirit of what this Europe wide programme was set up to do.
But he is confident that his Leader company will prevail when a final decision on who administers the allocated Kilkenny tranche of this money.