'There's more red tape creeping in all the time'


Derek and Mary Richardson at their farm in Carracastle, Co.Roscommon. Photo; Mick McCormack.
Derek and Mary Richardson at their farm in Carracastle, Co.Roscommon. Photo; Mick McCormack.

Ken Whelan

When are the bureaucrats going to run out of red tape?

That's the simple question Roscommon farmer Derek Richardson would like to ask Agriculture Minister Michael Creed although he accepts that the reply is most likely to be never.

"It's more and more red tape all the time and I hear there is more creeping up on us. All silly rules. Look at the slurry deadlines for an example.

"We haven't been able to get out for weeks but we are being tied up by rules from the department.

"Why can't they allow farmers to do what they have been doing successfully all their lives," the 43-year- old father- of-four asks.

Derek has just completed work on a new Dairymaster milking parlour - "with all the bells and whistles" - on his 250 acre farm on the Roscommon-Mayo border.

He is happy with the current 37c/l plus he is receiving from the Aurivo co-op and the extra few cents per litre he gets for the milk he supplies to a local cheese maker.

About a quarter of the 6,000 litres of milk which he is producing weekly goes to the cheesemaker who makes soft and semi-hard Swiss cheeses at a plant near the Richardson's farm.

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"I keep back some of my milk for him and he gives me a couple c/l over the co-op price.

"I have been supplying him with his milk requirement since he started up the business," says Derek who has won numerous prizes for the quality of his herd's milk.

Derek is helped on the home farm by his wife, Mary, who he says is "a demon for the tractor".

"She's a great woman for stacking bales. She loves it and it is the most boring job on the farm. She does it with great enthusiasm and she is out on the tractor at every opportunity."

With the new milking parlour in place and the purchase of a 50ac farm belonging to a late neighbour completed Derek is turning his attention to his milking herd.

"It's a bit of a mish mash breeding wise at the moment," he says.

"There's everything in it - Holstein, New Zealand and other breeds. I am thinking of developing a British Friesian herd over time. They are a great block of a cow," he adds.

The couple have four children - Natasha (17), Sarah Jane (15) Thomas (9) and Ciara (5) - and they take up most of the Richardsons' 'spare time' although Derek tries to get a cycle in when he knocks off from the dairy.

Natasha has just begun a law degree at Maynooth university but when she's home she helps with the milking.

So too does Sarah Jane when she is not boxing competitively at tournaments in the west.

Sarah Jane took up the sport a couple of years ago and already has a Connacht championship and two Mayo championships under her belt. She boxes with the Charlestown club and competed at the national championships this year. "The occasion in the National Stadium got to her but she will be back in Dublin next year," Derek predicts.

Asked where she got her prowess with the gloves from Derek explains: "Probably from my late father who was a good boxer but the time came when he had to choose between the boxing and work. Giving up the boxing was something he regretted all his life."

The two younger siblings are at national school but are also showing an interest in the farm.

Asked if he has any other pastime off farm, he responds with a question of his own: "Where would I get the time?" But he adds that during the GAA season he supports the Rossies to underline what side of Ballaghadereen he comes from.

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