'I'm more interested in nourishment than punishment'

Joe Daly, Valentia Island, Co Kerry; farmer and ice cream entrepreneur

Joe Daly with Helen Carroll from RTE's Ear to the Ground programme
Joe Daly with Helen Carroll from RTE's Ear to the Ground programme

Ken Whelan

It's getting near the 'down time' of the year on Joe Daly's dairy farm on Valentia Island off the coast of Kerry.

Joe, who also manufactures his own Valentia Island-branded ice creams and yoghurts, says he is tidying up his 150ac holding and the 25ac out-farm.

"We're getting great weather at the moment and we are tipping along nicely. We have just a few jobs left to do around the farm. Cleaning up the place and tending to the cubicles and milk tanks and then we will house the herd," Joe explains.

He milks 70 Holsteins and sends most of his milk to Kerry Group, but keeps back enough raw material for his Valentia Island ice cream enterprise, which supplies upmarket desserts to various hotels and restaurants in the tourist region.

"We will send out a lorry load of the ice cream and yoghurts later this week and then we will revert the business to a two-day week operation until next season.

"I have stopped doing the buttermilk this year because the margins were too tight and the amount of work on the buttermilk did not match the returns," Joe says.

Joe (46) has been working on what he describes as "a grand farm" since he was a teenager.

"When I started you were walking in muck all the time. Now you can walk across the farm in your house shoes. It's a lovely farm. It's neat and tidy and everything is in place."

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The farm was bought back in 1928 for £3,300 by his grandfather Joe who, at the time, was working on the railways in Texas.

"He was a good businessman and told the relations at home to give him a call on the transatlantic cable if any farm came up on Valentia Island. When this farm came up, after the previous owner - Scottish vet - died, they got on the blower and he told them to bid at the auction outside the courthouse in Caherciveen. His was the only bid.

"The grandfather was working in the railway business in Houston at the time. Pretty rough I believe and he came back two years later and set up a traditional beef enterprise exporting the beef to the east coast as they say.

"I took the farm over from my father Patrick over 20 years ago and developed the ice cream and yoghurt business in 2006 when I saw how well the continental and American ice creams were going down with the summertime tourists in Kerry. The ice cream unit cost over €200,000, but it has paid for itself."

He is thinking of expanding the production unit and increasing the volume of ice cream, yoghurts and possibly new lines of crepes and pancakes, but no final decision has been made.

"To be honest I am more interested in nourishment than punishment at the moment," he says.

Joe is married to Caroline, a vice principal at Domid national school near Waterville, and the couple have three children - Matthew (11), Philip (9) and Euan (7).

One of seven dairy farmers operating on Valentia Island, he says he is comfortable with the current 29c/l litre Kerry is paying for the island's milk. "It could be more but you make a few quid."

Indo Farming

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