Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Singing the blues over the monthly milk cheque

My week: Michael Murphy, Foulksmills, Co Wexford, dairy farmer

Michael Murphy
Michael Murphy

Ken Whelan

It's a busy time at Michael Murphy's farm down in Foulksmills in Co Wexford with a new batch of British Friesian calves on the way.

"One of them has started calving at the moment and the way things are for her it's not going to be too long now," he says as he ponders his latest cheque.

"Just looking at this December cheque. It's abysmal as 25c/l is nowhere near the costs of production. But that's the way it goes in this business. I hear it is going to be like this for some time. The milk price has gone down before and it is hard working with these close margins," the 51-year-old father-of-three sighs.

Michael has been working his 95ac home farm at Kilscanlon since the late eighties and runs a herd of between 40 to 45 British Friesians. It's small scale in comparison to some, he admits, but he has no plans to expand his operation and says the current stocking level is adequate enough for the land available.

He has had a British Friesian herd for all his farming life as had his parents - Michael and Ellen - before him.

"I like the breed. They are robust and easy to manage. I am not a big fan of the Holsteins", he says.

When he left school Michael did his Green Cert over three years at the Teagasc facility in New Ross. His wife Geraldine is a 'home mum' and their children Mark (18), Eadaon (16) and Gregory (14), are all going to school locally in New Ross so far none of the children seem to be over exercised about a future in farming.

"They seem more interested in x-box if you ask me though Eadaon plays a bit a camogie," Michael remarks.

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Looking on the bright side, the Murphys, whose farm is near enough to the Barrow river for worries, got over the storms without a hitch.

"Yes is was awful weather down here but we were okay. There was some flooding in the area and some of the farmers were affected but nothing like the people who had the flood waters coming up to their windows."

Michael does some work off-farm with the Wexford Local Development scheme and is a county secretary for the ICMSA.

"The rural development scheme helps in a variety of ways locally. At the moment I do the caretaking for the local GAA club and I have my ICMSA work. And I am looking to get back to do a bit of music as well but we will see how that goes," he explains.

Music in Michael's case is electric blues guitar in the style of Eric Clapton and the urge to strum the blues has been with him since his younger days when he played in a band called Zero Ground in pubs and clubs in the general Wexford and Kilkenny area.

"We weren't big or anything like that. We just played local and it's something I'd like to get back doing."

Coming back to the topic on hand - his farm - I ask Michael if he expects any improvements to arise for farmers after the upcoming general election.

'No", he replies with a great personal certainty.

"I am not doing much listening to them at the moment. I not a great fella for listening to politicians anyway unless they are planning to cut the Basic Payment or introduce new rules to make life more difficult on the farm.

"That type of thing would certainly catch my attention," he says.

"I'll probably be half listening to them over the next few weeks. If they say something interesting I will check it out but I won't make my mind up until election day and even then I find that things get more interesting the day after the election," he adds in the fashion of a man who has seen it all before.

Indo Farming