'Prices are on the floor but you have to stick with it'
My week: Stephen Shorten
Stephen Shorten is one of agriculture's natural optimists - taking this year's poor prices for both milk and crops on the chin, and stressing that he is fully intent on "sticking with farming".
He farms in partnership with his sister Fiona on what his describes as a " typical fragmented West Cork farm" at Enniskeane, between Bandon and Bantry, where they milk cows and grow crops on 340 acres - including the home farm and owned and rented land between three and four miles away.
The Shortens milk some 50 pedigree British Friesians - The Palace Anne herd - and supply Bandon Co-Op with some 1,200 litres a unit, as well as planting some 200 acres with spring barley, winter barley and wheat and growing some beet and maize crops for neighbouring farmers on a contract basis.
"The milk price is under pressure, but to be fair to the co-ops, they are getting every cent available to the farmers. I took the forward price this year and if I didn't, I probably wouldn't break even," Stephen says.
On the tillage front, where he is averaging 3.2 tonnes an acre on his crops, he says "things are very tough at the moment and prices are on the floor. But you have to stick with it and wait for a good year."
This is the fourth generation of the Shortens to farm in the Enniskeane area and while Stephen, who is single and in his fifties, was a farmer from the get-go, his sister Fiona only took up farming 15 years ago.
She packed in her previous full-time job as a national school teacher when she inherited some land from a relation. "She gave up the teaching for farming and it's better lifestyle," Stephen says without a hint of irony in his voice.
Stephen also works along with two employees collecting the "sludge cakes" (biomass blocks extracted from the 2m gallons a day taken by Carberry from the River Bandon to manufacture dairy products before returning the cleaned water to the river) and spreading the biomass material on farming land throughout the Cork region. It takes up two weeks a month from January to December.