'I don't feel right if I don't get a run in every few days'


John Daly from Kilconnell, Co. Galway.Photograph: Hany Marzouk
John Daly from Kilconnell, Co. Galway.Photograph: Hany Marzouk

Ken Whelan

The sheep are flying and the tillage is flat. That just about sums up the year for John Daly but the Co Galway farmer and agricultural contractor remains optimistic despite the weather and underwhelming tillage prices.

"On the tillage side the prices being offered just about cover the cost of production when the increased costs of overheads and inputs are taken into account," he says.

"We finished cutting the corn last Tuesday. It was not easy or simple. It was difficult and hard work saving the crops in the field.

"Farmers have great patience but, after last year, they decided to get out a lot quicker," says the 50-year-old. "The weather this year was just torrential downpours so they didn't wait and started cutting at every opportunity", John adds.

He works a 135-acre farm and a similar amount of rented land. Besides cutting his own corn, he is contracted to cut a further 500 acres by farmers in the region in addition to his routine silage and fodder work.

He processes his own corn on farm and sells it on to local farmers. He used to sell his crop to the merchants until it made more sense to process himself to boost margins.

Back in 2011 John decided to diversify into sheep and has been building up his flock ever since. He now runs 450 sheep on the farm near Ballinasloe and intends to up numbers to 500 next year.

"The sheep are flying and I have no regrets diversifying from what was once a 100pc tillage enterprise," he says.

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Married to Claire, the couple have five children - Sarah (21) Niamh (18) Eoin (16), Cathal (13) and Sinead (11).

John says that young Eoin, who is in his transition year at school and is working on placement with a local vet, is showing the biggest interest in farming.

"Eoin is very interested but I wouldn't push him into farming or any of my children for that matter."

Off farm, John's main pursuit is marathon running - an interest that developed when he was trying to sort out the inevitable "bad back" which goes with farming.

"I went to a specialist about the back and he recommended swimming. I didn't like that because there is not a lot to see or do when you are swimming so I then started cycling.

"Then someone suggested running and I haven't had back trouble since."

He has competed in five marathons and runs regularly all year round.

"It's addictive. You don't feel right unless you get a run in every couple of days."

As a member of the IFA's grain committee he takes an interest in farming politics and when we were talking he had just returned from an IFA protest in Dublin about the proposals for increased beef imports from Brazil and other South American countries to the EU under the new potential Mercosur deal.

John is withering about the implications of the move and about the beef production standards in Brazil.

"They put everything into the cattle to fatten them up. The government has to stop this move or it will destroy the Irish cattle sector. You can't have EU cattle health and safety standards being imposed on Irish and European farmers and then allow this stuff from Brazil and America into the European market," he insists.

Indo Farming

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