Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

'It's a great life but weather is always boss in farming'

My week: Eddie Hennessy

Eddie Hennessy
Eddie Hennessy

Ken Whelan

Eddie Hennessy was musing over how far each of his four children have moved from their original home base on the family's farm at Ballysimon in Co Limerick when we had a chat last week.

Simon (33), an equine veterinary surgeon operating in Kildare is closest. But Eddie thinks that "there are not enough horses down in Limerick" to attract him home.

Then there's Paul (26), a young dentist in Dublin, Eimear (36), a civil engineer with many more add-on qualifications who is working with Google, and Ciara (30) who is finishing her training as a GP in Manchester.

"I didn't want to influence them," Eddie says with remarkable understatement considering their chosen professions, with the exception of Simon, are some distance from farming.

He then adds: "Don't know where they got their love of education from. Not me. I hated school. I put down my pen after the Inter Cert."

Odds were, Maire - the mother of the Hennessy household - had an influence.

Eddie has been dairy farming since he was 16 and runs a Friesian/Holstein herd on his 130 acres of owned and leased land supplying Dairygold - and like every other dairy farmer, he is just hoping for the best.

"When you are getting a milk price in the low twenties, things are bad. Two years ago it was in the high thirties and I was looking at the returns just recently and we are ¤15,000 down for the same effort two years ago. I can't say I don't miss that," he adds.

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Eddie is helped by Nathan, a young man who came over to the farm to help with the silage a few years ago and never went back to his job in Limerick city.

They are doing the end of farm maintenance summer jobs.

"The second cut was wrapped, baled and stacked last week and we are doing a bit of fencing at the moment. Then we will do the reseeding and I have a few drains to fix and then we will start spreading slurry on the silage ground," he explains.

"Some people think I am a bit of an oddball with all the Sunday to Sunday work which has to be done but I have been at farming all my life. It's a great life, especially in fine weather. But you must remember that the weather is always the boss in farming," he adds.

It's all a long way from the priesthood which was marked out for Eddie by his late mother, when he was a teenager.

"She sent me to Rockwell in the hope that they would prepare me for the priesthood. I had asthma at the time and she thought I was not cut out for farm work. It was not unusual at the time to want a priest in the family. I lasted a year in Rockwell and then got back to St Munchian's in Limerick and then got back to the farm after my Inter Cert," he says with a pronounced note of relief in his voice.

"I'm a practicing Catholic but the priesthood was not for me. That's a very lonely life and it's not helped by what is going on at the moment," he adds.

Incidentally a surgeon in Co Kildare cured his asthma by hypnosis no less - but sin scéal eile.

So I ask Eddie if he has any time for pastimes and there's an emphatic yes - motorbike scrambling and touring. He was a member of the original Dalcassian motor bike club and now bikes with the local club.

"I have gone on bike tours of Portugal and Spain and have biked up most of the mountains in Ireland. I biked up the side of Croagh Patrick but, I suppose, you shouldn't say that because of the erosion problems there," he confides.

He's off to Lagos in the Algarve in October with his wife where no doubt he will be putting boot to pedal and thanking his "good neighbours" for helping out on the home farm while he is away.

Indo Farming