'The British seem to be in limbo land over Brexit'


Farmer Kieran McDermott on his farm at Corcummins, Co. Monaghan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Farmer Kieran McDermott on his farm at Corcummins, Co. Monaghan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Ken Whelan

Kieran McDermott is spreading fertiliser, anticipating the midweek rain at the home farm in Co Monaghan when I mention the 'B' word - and he just sighs and quietly replies:"Don't melt my brains."

He then gets his second wind and says: "It's a great job for the civil servants who can spend their whole time rewriting the same thing for years. It keeps them occupied."

The 29-year-old, like most farmers in the border counties, has had enough of the endless arguments about a hard or soft border, and he is excoriating about the British negotiating abilities.

"The whole thing is about their economy, not migration, and that is what they should be concentrating on," he says.

"But it is all talk from them and no decisions or vision. It just drags on and we don't know who will be better off at the end of it. The British seem to be in limbo land."

Kieran is happy with the Irish Government and the EU's stance on maintaining a soft border, and he is confident that this will be central to the outcome next March - or maybe the following March.

Kieran is also confident that his co-op, LacPatrick, which has cross-border operations, has taken sufficient commercial precautions to safeguard the enterprises of its farmer members in advance the outcome of these Brexit talks.

"But who knows what is going to happen if anything at all?" he adds.

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Kieran's main preoccupation at the moment is the home farm, which he runs in partnership with his father, Jimmy.

And next on the agenda at the 115-acre (owned and leased land) dairy operation near Clones is the building of new calving sheds and upping the farm's game in terms of farm efficiencies and milk quality. They have a herd of 76 British Holsteins supplying milk to the co-op at a current base price of 32.5c/l.

"It hasn't been a record-breaking year for milk solids," says Kieran. "Things were well back generally mainly because of the weather.

"But then the milk price is the milk price and you are never happy with it. And you can't ask for more anyway."

He has had an ambition to be a farmer since he was a boy and he started the partnership with his dad in 2015 after finishing his studies. These included the Green Cert in 2011, followed by the Advanced Dairy Herd Management diploma from Ballyhaise College in 2012, and an Agricultural Science Degree in Dundalk IT in 2014.

It has been heads down ever since then, with the herd increasing in number since the farm partnership got under way. He is a great believer in keeping the farm accounts balanced, and any expansion plans on the herd, milk quality and farm buildings will be determined by the income which the enterprise generates on an annual basis.

He is helped on the farm by his girlfriend, Emma, a local vet. Off-farm Kieran's main interest is the local Macra branch, and he is known to 'jive' at local dances and musical events.

Aside from jiving, his main off-farm exercise is soccer.

"I find it great to keep you fit. And when I am playing, it keeps my mind off the farm," Kieran says - and Brexit presumably.

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