Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

'More information and less protesting is what's needed'

My week: Eoghan McCarthy

Eoghan McCarthy with his wife Sinead and children Niamh (5) and Dylan (3). Photo: Dominick Walsh
Eoghan McCarthy with his wife Sinead and children Niamh (5) and Dylan (3). Photo: Dominick Walsh

Ken Whelan

Information, information, information are three well used words of Eoghan McCarthy who is constantly on the hunt for new ways to reduce costs inside the farm gate.

"There's nothing you can do about the weather or global milk prices, but there is a lot you can do about your costs on farm," Eoghan says with the infectious passion of the converted.

"Moorepark is a serious source of information if you want to get farm costs down. There are courses on EBI and grassland management, and the co-ops are good at getting the latest farming information out to farmers. I only wish the farm organisations were as good at getting the information out as they are about protesting," he adds.

The 41-year-old farms 135 acres (owned and rented) at Callinasercy near Killorglin, in Co Kerry, which has been operating as a dairy enterprise for three generations of the McCarthys.

A further 30 acres is rented a few miles up the road to boost the grassland available to the herd of 120 Holstein Friesians. They average 6,300 litres per cow, which goes to Kerry group.

He will dry off his herd in a fortnight's time and resume spring calving at the start of February.

Eoghan McCarthy with his herd. Photo: Dominick Walsh
Eoghan McCarthy with his herd. Photo: Dominick Walsh

"You need to cut costs and eliminate inefficiencies on farm, and all the information is there from the various agencies to help. It should be used by farmers," Eoghan adds.

He employs an extra hand on the farm through the Farm Relief Service during the spring and when he is away from Callinasercy. He also takes care of an agricultural student on secondment every year. "I also employ local good contractors," he adds.

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Rain was Eoghan's main preoccupation this year, which is hardly surprising given that half his farm is below sea level.

"The cows have been in and out all year and the land below sea level has been very wet," he explains.

This year, he availed of Kerry's fixed contract milk price of 34c/l for 20pc of the farm's milk, and he is hoping the percentage level within these contracts will increase sooner rather than later.

"I thought the contract price was good and, hopefully, milk prices in general will increase next year.

"All the co-ops seem to be developing the contract price idea, and at least it put the emphasis on the milk supplier for a change," he adds.

Eoghan is married to Sinead, who works in a local credit union, and the couple have two children - Niamh (5) and Dylan (3).

Family life and farm life have all but put an end to Eoghan's other passion in life - rowing along the Kerry coastline - which he did regularly up to a few years ago.

"I try to finish on the farm between 6pm and 6.30pm and spend all my spare time with the family. On the holiday front we went to California a few years ago. It was hot. But these days we tend to go somewhere in Ireland for a long weekend, usually on the spur of the moment."

So I ask if there was anything to write home about for the farmers of Kerry in the recent Budget.

"No", is the immediate reply. "But at least they didn't cut anything for the farmers. That's the least they could do having taxed their way out of the recession. The USC charge was brutal," he adds.

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