Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

'A lot of the time you are working for nothing'

My week... Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney with his partner Nuala McLaughlin on the farm in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Eamon Sweeney with his partner Nuala McLaughlin on the farm in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Ken Whelan

Eamon Sweeney works an 80 hour week on his farm in Co Leitrim and if he "had a fortune" would give up the farming.

"I'm going non-stop everyday and a good bit of that working is for little or nothing. Nobody is making money at the current price we are getting for our milk and the reality is we will need the promised extra income from next year to deal with the problems of this year," the 39-year-old says.

He farms the 74 acre home farm and rents an additional 130 acres to operate his dairy enterprise consisting of 80 Holstein-Friesians producing 1,600 litres of milk per cow for the Lakeland price of 27c/l or 27.28 c/l for the milk which qualifies for a bonus.

He is the sixth generation of the family to work the Ballinamore land which dates the Sweeney holding back to the days when Napoleon marched on Moscow.

Eamon took over from his father 20 years ago after gaining his agricultural qualifications at Ballyhaise College in Cavan.

At the moment he is winding down from his autumn calving work. "We've 35 calved and there are 18 to go. The herd will be housed shortly and then we have the whole winter to think about next year's work.

Eamonn with his mother Margaret. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Eamonn with his mother Margaret. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

But don't mention rain to Eamon which he says is making things extremely difficult for farmers in the Leitrim region. Rain really is a pebble in his shoe and he insists that this year's fall was worse than the supposed worst year for rain that was 2015.

"I have an official gauge on the farm and although we had less rain this year than last year, the problem was that it came down every day. I went over to Ballyhaise last week which is only a 45 minute journey and on the day we had 1,021ml of rain in Leitrim and they only had 795ml in Ballyhaise.

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"That's the type of rain we are dealing with here," he explains.

He has another pebble in his shoe about the distribution of the EU's Single Payment here which he says should be confined to productive farms and not those who throw a few sucklers on the land to qualify for their payment.

Pebbles aside, Eamon says his first cut last May was of a good quality but of "so and so" volume while the second cut in August was nothing to write home about. He reckons he will have to buy in an extra 10pc to 15pc of feed over this winter and will probably cull about eight of the milking cows to erase the cost of his farm overheads.

Eamon is in a long-term relationship with Nuala McLoughlin, a retail manager with Dunnes Stores over in Longford, but he reckons he won't be seeing much of his partner between now and Christmas because it is Nuala's turn to work flat out with the festive season beckoning.

But it should give him some time to concentrate on his main off farm interest - Macra.

He is joint president of the organisation in Leitrim.

At the moment, Eamon along, with a cohort of Macra members, are preparing for their 70th anniversary next year and are putting together a serious schedule of events to mark the occasion.

"We have to organise a gala dinner for next April and we are going to bring out a book on the 70-year history of Macra in the region. Macra is a great outlet. You can get away to something every week if you want too or if you have the time.

"I don't take much of an interest in sport so my social life is really down to a few pints with friends when I get the time," adds the 2013 winner of the King of the Land festival - a rural jamboree held annually in the West and along the border counties.

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