Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Clara farm is worthwhile initiative

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The new Greenfield dairy project in Clara, Co Kilkenny, is a fine development and one which has stirred a lot of farmer interest.

This was illustrated by the crowds that visited the site last Tuesday and Wednesday.

All the parties involved -- Teagasc, Glanbia, the Phelan family and Agricultural Trust -- deserve credit for this innovative project.

With the Commission holding firm on the decision to abolish milk quotas in 2015, any exercise which seeks to address the challenges which the sector faces in a new environment has to be beneficial.

Even the manner in which the farm was designed and constructed will offer valuable lessons for both farmers expanding their businesses and those brave enough to establish their own 'greenfield' sites.

Excellent tips were offered on the day, on such basic topics as roadway design, paddock layout, water supply and fencing.

The lessons learned will act as a useful guide for any farmer planning to develop their holding.

The business model itself is ambitious, with €1.1m being invested and a targeted return of around €1.4m over the project's 15-year term.

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Some reservations have been expressed in discussions on the project, and these must be addressed.

Access to quota is an obvious one. Milk has been made available on licence for this initiative, but it is still not certain that free access to milk will be available to farmers from 2015.

Indeed, it has recently been proposed that any new milk suppliers will have to carry the cost of dairy processor expansion.

Similarly, setting average returns at 26c/l is a pitch in the dark, given the current volatility in dairy markets.

On a lighter note, farmers surveying the milking parlour reckoned that getting one man or woman to work the 24-unit herring-bone is likely to be as big a challenge as the farm will face.

Roller skates may be in order.

Irish Independent