Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

'I will expand as far as I can but I will do it gradually'

My week: Ian Kelleher

Ian Kelleher pictured with his children Liam, Aine and Maeve on the family farm at Athlacca, Co Limerick. Photo: Brian Gavin, Press 22
Ian Kelleher pictured with his children Liam, Aine and Maeve on the family farm at Athlacca, Co Limerick. Photo: Brian Gavin, Press 22

Ken Whelan

The weather has been perfect recently down in Athlacca in Co Limerick where Ian Kelleher takes care of 100 high EBI Friesians and a family of three youngsters on the 100ac home farm plus an additional 70ac of rented ground.

"The cows are out grazing away. They are flying it. The weather has been dry, bright and cracking down in this part of Limerick. It's dry land here and it's been no bother unlike some other parts along the western coastline," says Ian.

The herd average 5,500 litres per cow and he supplies the Kerry Group.

"We've had a rough couple of years on prices but they have been improving over the past while and I expect they will improve further as we go into next year," Ian says.

Ian is optimistic enough about the returns from his dairy farm that he intends to add an additional 10 cows on an annual basis over the next few years.

"I'll expand as far as I can but I will do it gradually. About 10 cows a year and I'll wipe out late calving on the farm," says the 36 year old.

Ian is married to Ber (Bernadette) and they have three children - Maeve (8), Liam (7) and Aine (5) -- and he has yet to spot which one of the youngsters will turn out to be a farmer.

"They like being out on the farm, but at the moment that just means myself or Ber have to follow them around to make sure they are safe," he says.

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He mainly runs the farm singlehandedly, though he can call on his brother and a "few other men" when the going gets tough or when he needs a break from the land.

He used to breed national hunt horses in Athlacca but the family dropped out of this enterprise some years ago.

"We made a few quid on the horses but they really were not very good. We never got a good horse but breeding horses is in my blood so I think we'll get a mare when I am finished expanding the dairy operation," he says.

And though horses may be strangers on the farm at the moment, their absence did not prevent Ian from participating last weekend in the local charity hunt which crosses his land.

"The hunt has been going on for 24 years now and it crosses my land which has two double banks. Paul Carberry and Enda Bolger were jumping along with other National Hunt people and the event has raised over €500,000 for local charities this year.

"It was great and the horses were raising dust from the ground throughout the hunt. There was nothing too dramatic to report though one girl was flung from her horse when she opened a packet of crisps at a stop and because there were two ambulances there they felt obliged to bring her to hospital. She would have walked off the injury if the ambulances were not there.

"Oh, and the tea lady burned her hand while pouring the teas."

Ian's other off farm interest is raising money for the local GAA club which he played for during his youth with mixed results.

He is currently busy organising the club's 'Raise a Bullock' scheme in which some 25 local farmers raise an animal for 15 months and then sell it on, with all the proceeds going to the club's pitch improvement account in the local bank.

"It's worth a good bit to the club," he says.

At the moment Ian is happy out with the ways things are going on the farm though he admits that he has still some work to do in keeping input costs and other expenses at manageable levels.

Indo Farming