'I don't see how you can farm without an off-farm job'
Niamh McGuinness, who is doing her Green Cert at Teagasc Mullingar, considers the pros and cons of going into partnership with her father PJ at the family dairy farm at Ballynacarrigy outside Mullingar.
The 28-year-old only child of PJ and Mary has been into farming since her childhood, but given the milk price and the on-farm costs, she is wondering whether the figures add up to make a go of it.
"It seems to me that the only people making money from farming are the co-ops and supermarkets, while the farmers have to bear all the costs from silage and contracting to fertilisers and straw for the calves," she says.
"Certainly at the current price of 33c/l it is hard to make the books balance."
The McGuinnesses have a herd of 40 British Friesians supplying Lakeland - down from the 60 head which they had before PJ was hospitalised earlier this year and was forced to cut the herd to suit his health.
It was during PJ's absence that Niamh got a real sense of farm economics as she took charge, and she now wonders if any set of numbers can be achieved that will make any farming enterprise profitable of itself.
"Most of the students I am doing the Green Cert with at Teagasc Mullingar have alternative professions like teaching and engineering to fall back on when they go into partnership - they will be working at those professions during the day and farming in their time off," she says.
"You could really say they are part-time farmers in a way.