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Independent.ie

Monday 18 June 2018

Go with the flow - Cork man shows that you don't need land or milking tradition to gain a foothold in dairying

 

Diarmuid Scannell and his wife Briege Corkery have entered into a share milking arrangement with Michael Batterman in Cookstown, Co Cork. Photo: Clare Keogh
Diarmuid Scannell and his wife Briege Corkery have entered into a share milking arrangement with Michael Batterman in Cookstown, Co Cork. Photo: Clare Keogh
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

The idea that you need a substantial farm of land and milking heritage to enter the expanding dairy industry no longer holds true.

There are now plenty of men and women, some without an acre to their name, who are working their way up the ladder in farm management roles as share milkers through leasing land and in partnerships.

The first time that Diarmuid Scannell milked a cow was over 17,000km from his Coolea, Co Cork home. In 2010, Diarmuid, then 25, took up a job on a 400-cow farm, 200km north of Melbourne.

Hailing from a 29-hectare sheep and suckler farm on the Cork/Kerry border, Diarmuid says that since his home farm has "far from Golden Vale land conditions", he had never considered dairy farming as an option.

"Dairy farming wasn't on the radar in Coolea. I worked as a welder until 2007. I milked my first cow in Australia in 2010. I spent three months milking on a farm, just milking cows at 45°C in the middle of the day. It wasn't particularly enjoyable but it was a job," he says.

It wasn't until later in 2010 when he moved to New Zealand with his then girlfriend and now wife, Briege Corkery, who is well-known for her exploits on the GAA fields, that he viewed dairy farming as a potential career path.

"I moved on to New Zealand and got a job on a 425ha farm. I really enjoyed the experience there. I learned how to work, God knows, but I learned great lessons. It wasn't complicated. It was a real eye-opener," he recalls as he addressed the recent Positive Farmers dairy conference in Cork.

In 2013, Diarmuid returned home and began working for dairy farmer Michael Bateman. He has since entered in to a share milking arrangement with Michael.

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This means the more stock Diarmuid owns, the more he'll be able to increase his share in the business.

"If I own no cows, I get 25pc of the milk cheque and 25pc of all variable costs and 100pc of the labour. I own 56 cows today, that gives me an extra 2.3pc share in the business," he says.

"The more cows I own, the more my labour costs will go down and milk cheque increases. I hope to increase my stock to 200 cows in the next two to three years."

Diarmuid recommends that any young person looking to enter dairying does some travelling to gain life experience and learn different ways of doing things. "Travel is a big thing. You don't have to travel out of Ireland - you can go somewhere else in the country," he says. "There's plenty of good farms around the place. It's good for a young person to get out of home, stand on their own two feet and find a job."

Partnership

Jerry Murphy (30) is currently in a farm partnership with his father Michael in Crookstown, Co Cork, which is far from the accounting career he carved out for himself in his early 20s.

"Coming out of school, my father was quite young and in the era of quotas, I didn't see the same opportunities in farming. I chased the vision of being an accountant, studied accountancy and got a job with KPMG," he says.

In 2013, while travelling in New Zealand with his wife Susan, Jerry got the call from his father that he was looking to expand the farm and incorporate a second milking platform.

Fast-forward five years, and Jerry and his father have expanded from 115 cows on one milking platform to 331 cows on three milking sites.

"We have our 32-ha farm at home and then installed a mobile milking parlour in 2013 on a 44ha site we've been leasing since 1995," he explains.

"Last year we leased another 42ha site and expanded further.

"A key driver is to make the business big enough for two people and two family incomes - that's why we've got to this scale, and we feel we've built a business that can support the two of us."

Leasing

Coming from a drystock farm in Trabolgan, Co Cork, Joe Deane was convinced he wanted to be a beef farmer, but once he entered Clonakilty Agricultural College in 2006, the lifestyle and profitability of dairying attracted him.

In 2010 he got experience working on a 1,100-cow dairy herd in New Zealand and returned home in 2011, spending three years working as a farm manager.

After years of keeping an eye out for the perfect leasing opportunity, in 2016 he leased a 24ha farm in Carrigaline, Co Cork.

"I was ready to take the step. I'm on a seven-year lease and just starting in year two now. I milked 125 cows last year and 160 this year all going well," he says.

Joe says the biggest challenges when it comes to leasing include sourcing the right farm and building up a reputation to make you attractive to landowners looking to lease out their farms.

"Trying to source the farm and building up a reputation to attract the landowner and upskilling and finance are the challenges," he says.

"I found it quite difficult at times waiting for a farm to come up, but I don't regret it taking so long.

"In 2014 I was very anxious to start out, but needed patience for the right option, and that's how I gained experience."


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