Farm Ireland

Friday 19 April 2019

'It is always the farmer who has to pay for regulations'


Farmer Kevin Comiskey at his farm at Doonkelly, Co. Leitrim. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Farmer Kevin Comiskey at his farm at Doonkelly, Co. Leitrim. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Ken Whelan

Kevin Comiskey was delighted with the quality of the hay he was baling at his home farm in north Leitrim last week. It was the best he had seen since 1995 and the heatwave of 1976.

"We're 80pc into the first cut with 127 square and rounds bales already done and about 40 to go," he says.

"We should be finished this week. Its good-quality hay and a change from the silage dripping in water that we got over the past few years.

"We'll spread some fertiliser soon and could be in for a second cut in about seven weeks."

The IFA sheep committee vice-chairman cautions that there could be fodder problems this winter in Connacht because the region's farmers depend on fodder supplies from Munster during the cold months. These supplies are unlikely to be available after this year's scorching summer.

He is putting the Department on early notice that a winter fodder scheme should now be at the planning stages - and it needs to be better designed than relief efforts during the rains and storms of the winter.

Kevin rears sucklers - mainly Limousins and Charolais - and a flock of mountain sheep on his 110 acres which is made up of the home place and some rented land.

He is helped on the farm by his son Jason who is in his 20s and has just completed his agricultural studies at Ballyhaise College.

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Kevin was just 11 when his father James passed away.

The youngest of the family of seven, he took over his father's mantle as his siblings left for work opportunities elsewhere.

Married to Michelle, who works as a chef in Sligo town, the couples have three children: Jason; Laura, who works with a pharmaceutical company in Castlebar; and Sarah, who is studying law at NUI Mayooth.

Kevin is happy with the prices he has been getting for his livestock and he expects prices to remain good when he sells his weanlings later this year and his sheep a bit earlier.

"We are now preparing the lambs for sale and expect the prices to be balance out when we go to the market. There might be some slippage in the store lamb prices, but I am happy enough with the prices we are getting this year," he says.

However, Kevin is far from happy with the new EID sheep tagging system.

"It used to be 25c a tag and now its €1.40. That's a sizeable increase and one which has to be paid solely by the farmer," he says.

"It's always the farmer who has to pay for regulations. This tag increase is costing the farmers in the sheep sector an extra €2m a year.

"I know the traceability of meat is important but the sheep only have the tags in their ears for the two hours it takes to bring them to the factory and process them.

"The Government have to do something to help defray the €2m in extra costs for sheep farmers."

Kevin has little downtime what with the farm and his IFA commitments, but when he gets a chance he watches motorcycle racing on TV.

"There was a great interest in motorcycle racing here and I used to participate until Michelle made me change over to the four wheels," he says. "I was a marshall at the North West 200 in my time but that interest in motor bike racing has been on the wane locally."

In conversation with Ken Whelan

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