'The cull could be promising for our new venison line'

My week: Denis Carroll, farmer, Killarney, Co Kerry Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb

Denis Carroll from Killarney.
Denis Carroll from Killarney.

Ken Whelan

Things are getting busy down on Denis Carroll's mixed farm just outside Killarney with some 50 Scotch ewes being sent to the ram next week while a further batch from the 150-strong flock are due to lamb themselves in the run-up to Christmas.

And then there is the daily round of milking a 58-strong herd of Holsteins to say of nothing of his commitments to the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb group who are producing prime product for restaurants and hotels in Kerry and Dublin and also exporting to London.

Denis took over the home farm from his parents, Daniel and Francis - who bought the property as returning emigrants from the United States in the sixties - on what he calls "the most auspicious day of January 1, 1984 when the EU milk quota regime was first introduced".

"What a day to start wearing wellingtons on a full-time basis," he remembers.

So is he impressed by the milk price being paid by the Kerry group now that we are in the post-quota era?

"Absolutely not. They are paying 24c/l and 34c/l on the fixed price on 20pc of the milk. It should be up in the mid-thirties," he says with an accusatory firmness.

Denis, who is married to Kay, a medical secretary, and has two daughters - Denise, a teacher, and Michelle, who is studying to be a dietician - is helped on the 130-acre enterprise by his son, Shane, a 22-year-old student completing his Green Cert studies part-time at Pallaskenry in Limerick.

"I do the milking and Shane does the grassland management," he says of the division of the farmyard workload.

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But Denis's consuming interest at the moment is the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb enterprise which involves some 20 sheep farmers from Waterville, Kilgarvan, Cahersiveen, Muckross Beaufort, Killarney and Killorglin.

They finish and market some 2,000 lambs from their own abattoir in Waterville every year - a growing number since the venture was started at the beginning of the country's economic troubles in 2009. It was a fair gamble at the time for Denis, who plays a marketing and distribution role within the company, given the state of the economy at the time.

"It was even worse in 2011 and 2012 but things are improving now," he says, adding they would improve further if the same emphasis was put on the agricultural aspects of the region as was placed on tourism.

He puts down the Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb's success subsequently to "quality, quality, and quality".

"If one of our members supplies a lamb which is not up to scratch in terms of weight or quality, then it is simply returned to him and he takes the loss. It's a simple as that."

He sells about 90pc of his lamb to the company with the rest going to the factories.

The Ring of Kerry farming group has added a new line to its range recently with the introduction of quality ­venison and are producing some 500 kilos for their hotel/restaurant customers.

They are licensed to process deer and are hopeful that the planned cull of deer in the Killarney National Park will perk up business further.

"We'll see what happens but the cull could be promising for our venison line which we only began earlier this year," Denis says.

So which is the more profitable enterprise on his farm at the moment?

"It's a toss-up between the sheep and the cows really," he replies.

Indo Farming

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