'The work is 24/7 but I'd love to expand the farm'
While dozens of young men and women continue to leave the Irish farming sectors each year in favour of more lucrative jobs, it is comforting to see 25-year-old Michael Kavanagh building a nice career for himself.
"I have a serious love of farming. It's hard going and it's 24/7 but I make the most of it," he says.
Michael has the right attitude. He takes in a decent holiday once a year, and last week he wrapped up his involvement in the local drama production of 'Juno and the Paycock'.
"Farming can be a lonely job so it's important to have a social outlet. I love the drama as you get to meet so many people. I also love travelling and I'm just back from a skiing trip," he says.
A graduate in civil engineering from UCD, Michael had no intention of a career on the home farm until he spent six months working at a dairy unit in New Zealand in 2014. That stint changed his mind.
"When I came home I did my Green Cert in Kilmuckridge and then built a separate milking parlour and yard on the outside farm, which is a few miles down the road from the home place," he says.
"I also got my own herd number."
Michael milks a herd of 60 Holstein/Friesian crosses, while his father Peter milks a further 150 on the home farm. They supply to Strathroy Dairy.
In total the farms cover some 300 acres and are situated near Coolgreaney outside Gorey, Co Wexford.
"It works well for us to have two independent set-ups and in time I would love to expand," says Michael. "My brother Edward is also involved in dairy and works on a neighbour's farm."
In the next few weeks work will step up a gear with spring calving, and it will be all hands on deck.
"It is impossible to get someone to work full-time in the spring but we have some locals who help out when it gets busy," says Michael.
They sell off their bull calves from the farm and retain the heifers as replacements.
Michael says the drought last summer was testing, but they pulled through it thanks to some clever forward planning.
"Thankfully there was some softness in the ground before the hot weather came so we managed to get three cuts of our own silage in total," he says.
"We could see trouble down the line early on, so for the first time we also bought in a further 30 acres of silage and 20 acres of whole crop wheat.
"We were lucky to get it at a good price before things got really bad. We figured it was better to buy in fodder rather than sell off stock. It wasn't attractive to sell at the time.
"We still have plenty of fodder but there will be no surplus, so hopefully 2019 will be better."
Michael is also optimistic that milk prices will steady for 2019, but he is worried about what the future holds for Irish farming should there be a no-deal Brexit.
"It is a worry for sure. There needs to be a complete turnaround as a no-deal would be a disaster for Irish agriculture across all sectors."
In conversation with Siobhan English
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