‘Young dairy farmers will struggle without a 35c/l milk price ’
Alfie Hughes was reviewing progress on the “rebuild” on his three span shed at his farm in Inch, Co Wexford when we spoke last week, while at the same time taking what shelter he could from the incoming hail and sleet of the latest storm.
“It’s been one long winter,” says Alfie. “The three span shed collapsed when the thaw set in after Storm Emma. The snow stayed on the roof for the entire time and when it began to thaw the whole building collapsed. It had been up for 45 years and when it fell down it caused serious problems for housing the herd — things were overcrowded.
“Anyway, we were alright because we were insured and now there is a week of work left on replacing the shed,” the 54-year-old lifelong farmer explains.
Alfie farms 40 acres of the home farm with an additional 60 acres rented outside the north Wexford village where he runs a split 85-strong herd of British Friesians and Holsteins. He has also started to add some sucklers to the enterprise over the past few years.
Alfie is married to Sandra who works at the local grain company and also helps on the farm at the weekends. He took over the family farm in the early-1990s and although “happy out” with the way things have gone since then, he is singularly unhappy with the volatility in the milk prices he has been getting of late.
Glanbia’s milk is down to 33c/l at the moment, which is below the 35c/l that Alfie believes is the very minimum required for dairy farmers to survive.
“Unless a floor price of at least 35c/l is put on the milk prices, young farmers and those with high overheads are going to struggle,” he says. “I am alright because I don’t have the overheads and I have no plans to expand, but not everyone is as lucky.”
Alfie accepts, of course, that the dairy sector is not back in the old days of prices in the low 20s that prevailed during the economic crash.