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Thursday 22 November 2018

150-cow Cork dairy farmer on why he's "ready to go" as soon the Government decides to support alternative energy

Brendan (54) runs a 120 acre dairy farm in Kilnamartyra with a further 130 acres rented

Brendan Hinchion, his wife Virginia and daughter Thia on the family farm at Kilnamaytra, Macroom, Co Cork PHOTO: Denis Boyle
Brendan Hinchion, his wife Virginia and daughter Thia on the family farm at Kilnamaytra, Macroom, Co Cork PHOTO: Denis Boyle

Ken Whelan

Are the Government serious about sustainable energy initiatives for farmers? It's a key question from Cork dairy farmer Brendan Hinchion, who says he is "ready to go" as soon as the Government decides if it really intends to include farmers and rural communities in the drive for alternatives to fossil fuels.

"I have been talking to local farmers who are interested in putting solar panels on their farm buildings and converting their slurry into sustainable energy but the Government is only dealing with the big energy companies. Throughout Europe farmers and rural communities are involved in producing sustainable energy but in Ireland it's only the big companies. A cluster of farms in any given area would provide as much as energy as single big company project," Brendan states.

He believes rural Ireland would be revitalised if the Government followed the European sustainable energy model which sees farm buildings fitted with solar panels and slurry converted to gas.

His comments come shortly after the long-awaited launch of the Government's new Renewable Heat Incentive scheme which has been welcomed, but it farm bodies have expressed disappointment that biomethane injection from anaerobic digesters is not included in the first phase of it.

Brendan (54) runs a 120 acre dairy farm in Kilnamartyra with a further 130 acres rented, while his wife Virginia "dabbles" with a flock of 45 ewes on 78 acres of conservation land some 60km away on the Ring of Kerry.

He took over the family farm after completing his agricultural studies at Clonakilty around the time that his father Tim passed away prematurely in the 1990s and today he runs a pedigree of herd of some 150 Holstein Friesians and Norwegian Reds and is currently adding Jersey crosses to the herd.

The herd is rated within the Top 50 nationwide.

The origins of the Norwegian Reds within the herd arose when he participated in a Teagasc initiative some 10 years ago.

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Both Brendan and Virginia are happy with the prices they are receiving for their milk and sheep. Although Brendan feels that his co-op- Dairygold is lagging behind the West Cork Co-ops in terms of cents per litre.

"I suppose the milk price is as good as it possibility can be for Dairygold considering what has happened over the past few years and it is certainly better than what we were getting two years ago, I am happy enough with the current price," adds Brendan.

But you get the distinct impression that the couple's real pride and joy is their adopted 11-year-old daughter, Thia, who is a native of Vietnam.

She came to Ireland as a three-month-old baby.

"Thia is a fabulous bubbly child" says Brendan with more than a little pride in his voice.

The adoption process was difficult and took up to three years to complete, Brendan outlines.

"When all the work was done on the adoption of Thia we left Ireland on Christmas Eve and arrived in Vietnam on St Stephen's Day and spent the month there completing the formalities like arranging visas.

"I wanted to have it all completed before spring calving and the evening we arrived back in home with Thia five of the cows had just calved in the sheds," Brendan recalls.

Off farm Brendan's main interest is GAA matches and music of the guitar variety played loud, long and locally when he has a few pints consumed, he quips.

All sorts of strumming from classical to traditional are allowed once the required consumption is achieved.

In conversation with Ken Whelan


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