Farm Ireland

Monday 21 May 2018

'Thank God for the grass we have in Ireland'

My week: Michael Moloney

A recent trip to Finland highlighted the advantages of the Irish climate.
A recent trip to Finland highlighted the advantages of the Irish climate.

Ken Whelan

Michael Moloney is just back from a co-op trip to Helsinki where dairy farmers work under the various burdens of high borrowings, bad weather, no grass and production costs running at 45c/l for a return of 35c/l .

"Thank God for the grass we have in Ireland and thank God we don't have to endure the Finnish winters," Michael remarks with no little relief in his voice.

"It was an interesting trip. Twenty three of us went to Finland and were hosted by the Valeo Co-Op. The average herd size in Finland is 38 cows but a lot of the herds are between 10-15 cows housed in cow byres.

"We visited two much larger farms. One was a state-of-the-art dairy job which cost €1.2m to kit out.

"These trips are like a three-day farming discussion group and are very informative," he added.

Michael, who is rising 59 years, runs a Freisian-Holstien herd with some Jersey crosses at the 125-acre family farm in Carlow. The herd has a production level of 16.5 litres per cow with 3.5pc proteins and 4.2pc fats.

He describes the land, which has been in the Moloney family for three generations as "light granite land".

"We seem to have a micro-climate down here. We have droughts from time to time and the moisture holding capacity of the soil is very low," he says.

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Michael farms in partnership with his son Niall (25); his younger son Mark works as a nutritional and IT adviser for Keenans in Co Wexford and wife, Katherine, works in admin at the Keenan operation in Kilkenny. ­Michael is optimistic about the milk price recovering, though he cautions that everything will depend on what "the Kiwis" get up to between now and next May.

"Glanbia raised the price by 2c/l recently and I think things will get better over the next few months. Then it will be all down to New Zealand and what they do with their milk next May," he says.

He was less optimistic about the Budget and how it might impact the agricultural sector.

"There a lot of angst in the farming community about the tax bills they are facing, especially in a year of very low income," he says.

"And new farm partnerships are feeling aggrieved because they are excluded from income averaging because of the tax rule that they must be trading for three years to qualify for income averaging," he stresses.

Michael also dabbles a little in rural tourism and for many years ran a "quad adventure centre" on unused land at the farm which attracted substantial numbers of visitors. "It was going well but we had to close it when the crash came in 2010. The insurance went sky high and the venture was no longer viable," he explains.

Undaunted by the ­commercial reversal, he now rents out "a few acres" to a rural tourist company who run a paint ball venture on the land. "It seems to be doing well but I don't have the worry of it. I simply draw a rent."

His other two off-farm preoccupations at the moment are amateur dramatics and helping with the preparations for the upcoming centenary celebrations of the local co-op branch in Graiguenamanagh, which take place at the end of the month.

"My last part with the dramatic society was in a production of Dermot Bolger's play, Blinded by the Light. It was a small part but I enjoyed it".

Indo Farming