Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

Tipp farmer on life milking between 90 and 100 Friesians at his home farm

My week... Pat McCormack
Pat McCormack says he has not yet decided whether to stand for the ICMSA presidency. Photo: Liam Burke
Pat McCormack says he has not yet decided whether to stand for the ICMSA presidency. Photo: Liam Burke

Ken Whelan

Pat McCormack will be a 'young farmer' for another few days, and the Tipperary milk supplier and ICMSA deputy president fully intends to "drag out" his status until the bitter end.

"It used to be that you had to be under 35 in Ireland to qualify as a young farmer, but with the various EU amendments to definitions over the years, I can say I am a young farmer until I reach 40. I am 39 at the moment," he says triumphantly.

Pat, who will marry local girl Joanne O'Dwyer in June, runs a herd of between 90 and 100 Friesians at his home farm in Greenane outside Tipperary town and supplies Tipperary Co-op.

His current milk price, with the 3c/l February bonus, comes out at 37.5/l, which he describes as a relief given the dismal returns of the past few years. However, he emphasises that a floor of at least 32c/l will have to be guaranteed if dairy farmers are to make a living.

At the moment, Pat is flat out on the farm. His main preoccupation from a farming perspective is the breeding season, which runs over the next eight weeks.

He is also concerned by the upcoming Brexit talks, which he says will impact one way or another on the Irish dairy and beef industries because of our dependence on the British market for exports.

He believes the Government will have to be at its negotiating best for the talks, because of the possibility of a new European border emerging from the process and all the commercial barriers and disruption that such an outcome would entail.

But overall how does he think Ireland will fare?

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"These talks will be like a closely contested hurling match that will probably be decided on the last puck," he maintains.

His interest in farming issues stems from his father Tom, who celebrates his 90th birthday this week and who is only now taking the idea of farm retirement seriously.

"He was active up to last year but since we changed our milking regime, he has lost a bit of interest," Pat explains.

But it was his father who ignited Pat's interest in farm representation. He was a great friend of the late Sean Kelly and Jackie Cahill - the former ICMSA leader and current TD - with both men regular visitors to the Greenane farmhouse.

"I won't say I was mentored by these individuals but I was certainly educated by them," Pat recalls.

So how is Pat's time divided between the farm and farm lobbying?

"It works out at about 80pc on the farm and 20pc on ICMSA work - but you must remember that farmers do not do a 39ƒ-hour week," he replies.

The ICMSA part of his time last week was spent in Brussels lobbying Commissioner Phil Hogan on the powder storage scheme. "This has put a floor on dairy prices and it is likely to continue," Pat reveals.

An unexpected bonus from the Brussels trip was seeing the High Hopes Choir (made up of people affected by homelessness) performing in the European Parliament.

"They were brilliant," is his three-word critique of their show.

And what about the next ICMSA show in town: electing a successor to president John Comer at the end of this year.

Will Pat stand?

"I am not thinking about that at the moment. I am doing what I have to do within the association this year and will then review the situation," he says.

In any event, between now and then he has a far more important engagement for which to prepare.

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