'We are in the milk price league relegation zone'

John Skehan Jnr and John Skehan Snr on their farm in Kilmeaden Co Waterford with their herd of milking cows. Photo: John D Kelly
John Skehan Jnr and John Skehan Snr on their farm in Kilmeaden Co Waterford with their herd of milking cows. Photo: John D Kelly

Ken Whelan

The hazards of farming were brought home to John Skehan this time last year when both he and his father, John Snr, were involved in farm accidents on the same day at the family's 121-acre holding in Kilmeaden in Co Waterford.

"I broke an arm when I got a kick from a heifer in the milking parlour and had to be taken to hospital for an operation," says John Jnr (25), who farms in partnership with his father.

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"On the same day my father, who was with the vet who was injecting the bull, was also kicked. The bull got agitated and kicked him in the head. He was bleeding from the forehead, but didn't have to go to hospital.

"The local doctor stitched him up and everything was okay."

It was a salutary lesson about the dangers of farming and one which he will not forget.

The Skehans run a herd of 70 British Friesians and send their milk to Glanbia for a current price of 30.5c/l, which John Jnr describes as poor.

"Glanbia are at the bottom of the price league at the moment, in the relegation zone," he quips.

John did his advanced dairy studies at Kildalton and was working off-farm with the Lidl supermarket group before he came back to Kilmeadan to work with his father.

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He has two older sisters: Jackie (27) is a manager with Lidl and Louise (29) works with Apple.

John believes the returns from farming are not great when you consider the amount of hours involved in running a dairy enterprise especially when compared to a good nine to five job, but he stresses that he is in farming for the long term.

That said, he doesn't any immediate plans to expand the herd.

"There was a time we had pigs and were thinking of expanding that but we didn't. And now you have all the big pig producers moaning about prices," says John about the general volatility of prices in all agricultural sectors.

He has firm views about the current CAP reform negotiations in Brussels.

"It should be reformed and designed to benefit actual active farmers as distinct from armchair farmers - it's the working farmers who should benefit," he stresses.

He would also like to see the retirement package for farmers reviewed so that younger farmers could be brought into farm management sooner rather than later.

Off farm, his main interests are cycling and Macra, and he is soon to take up banjo playing. His sister Jackie gifted him the instrument and he is now arranging lessons from a trusted local music teacher.

While at school in the De La Salle in Waterford he was a keen cyclist and won an All Ireland team medal with the Carrick Wheelers club of Sean Kelly fame.

His arm injury, which still affects him by "swelling up from time to time" has curtailed the cycling, but he intends to be back on the road soon and is a big fan of the new Waterford Greenway.

"I've done the stretch from Waterford city to Kilmacthomas and it is a great idea," he says.

In conversation with Ken Whelan

Indo Farming