Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

'I love to see the reactions from farmers': The Kilkenny farmer who became a serial inventor

My week: Liam Murphy

Liam Murphy with his silage pit tyre weight. Photo: Roger Jones
Liam Murphy with his silage pit tyre weight. Photo: Roger Jones

Ken Whelan

Liam Murphy has spent his life milking cows and conjuring up new innovations to make life on the farm easier.

Liam, who is in his late 50s, runs the family's 75-acre home dairy farm in Lisdowney, Co Kilkenny with its 90 British Friesians and a further 50 acre out farm for replacements and beef.

He supplies Glanbia -"the Kilkenny plant is about a mile away" - and is happy with his current milk price but says that the Government has to devise some mechanism to bring in a floor price for milk.

"The way it is at the moment, if you have two bad years in dairying - like 2009/2010 - you could be wiped out. It's very risky," he says.

"There should be no dilly-dallying on this issue. This year's price has been good but it is being underpinned by the strong international butter price which is up, but what happens when this price goes down?" he asks.

Liam is helped on the farm by his "farming son" Brian (25) and wife Breda, who is currently working with the HSE in Naas and running the holiday home attached to the farm.

Liam Murphy designer of the quick attach round calf feeder. Photo Roger Jones.
Liam Murphy designer of the quick attach round calf feeder. Photo Roger Jones.

The couple's three other children work off farm with the eldest, Paul (28), now switching his banking career for teaching, while Stephen (26) runs an antiques company and his sister Aoife is a radiologist in Birmingham.

"Brian was always going to be the farmer and is now back in Kilkenny doing his Green Cert after completing a degree in Alternative Energy at the University of Limerick."

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Both Liam and Brian intend to expand the herd but are taking a watch-and-see approach as these plans are land dependent.

Liam's other big interest is "inventing things".

"I have been inventing things for the past 25 years. I am always thinking of new and better ways of doing things on the farm while I am milking the cows, and I always like to have something to show at the Tullamore show and at the Ploughing and Punchestown.

"Some of the ideas are just rubbishy - or offbeat to say the least - but some of the inventions are good. I just like to have something new every year for the shows. I love to see the reactions from farmers when they see what I have come up with," says the endlessly curious Liam.

This is somewhat of an understatement as a few of his ideas, like the bale-wrap shearer patent, have been produced by Tanco for the Irish and international markets.

"They export to 50 countries and I think the bale-wrap shearer has even been exported to China".

Liam has the patent for the shearer but the Tanco royalties more than cover the patent costs. He says the patents are expensive as it costs €2,000 to apply for and then upwards of €20,000 to hold and develop over the first three years after it is granted.

Another of Liam's popular lines was his tyre mats idea for silage pits. "That was a simple idea - a bolt and two washers - but I got an amazing amount of calls from farmers asking how it was done." At the moment, Liam is working on an award winning front-loading calf-feed device which he will bring to the market next year and is showing promise.

He is also finessing his annual entry for the Tullamore Show inventions category - a contraption called a 'Hen Cycle'. All will be revealed in Co Offaly next month. So, what's the work ratio between his farming and inventing, I ask. "Well I'd say 90pc farming and 10pc inventing in the workshop, but as I said, I'm always thinking while I am milking."

It's a busy schedule, but like all Kilkenny people, he still has the time for hurling. "I played for Lisdowney as a minor." Did he don any county jerseys, I ask. "God no, there was too much competition for those in my time playing the game."

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