Despite living on the outskirts of Boyle, Co Roscommon, an area traditionally associated with suckler beef farming, Sean Connaughton and his wife Liz decided to set up a dairy herd in the mid-1980s.
They gradually expanded their herd and today they have 110 cows through a 10-unit double up milking parlour.
"The farm was handed over to me in 1986 and we changed over from livestock to dairy," says Sean. "We started off milking 10 or 11 cows and rearing calves onto beef in 1986.
"When I left school, I worked for a neighbouring dairy farmer and I enjoyed it. I liked working with cows, it was steady and the routine appealed to me."
When Sean first converted to dairy farming, there were several small dairy farms in the area with an average herd size of eight or nine cows and a quota of 5,000 gallons.
However, as regulations around dairies and milking parlours increased, smaller producers left dairying and went into part-time farming or sucklers.
With an ageing farming population, the issue of succession in Irish agriculture is a problem with 86pc of farmers not having a succession plan in place, according to IFAC.
However, this is not something the Connaughton family have to contend with as both their son Donal and grandson Glyn (14) are interested in farming.
The Connaughtons have a partnership with their son Donal, who returned to work on the family farm after two years working on a large dairy farm in Scotland.
However, both Donal and Sean argue strongly that they should be seeing greater income from dairy farming.
"It's very satisfying for me and Liz to see Donal coming back to the farm. It's positive he's back but the industry isn't returning what it should, we're all putting up with less income than we'd like," he says.
"Dairy farming is seen as being streets ahead of everyone else but it's not that far ahead.
"According to the farm income figures, the average dairy farm is around 85-90 cows. The suckler income is quite low but the herd size is also quite low."
According to his milk receipts, Sean is being paid the same price for milk in 2020 as he was in the mid-1990s. He labels this as a lack of respect for producers.
"I have official statistics going back to the mid-90s. The average price per litre back then when converted to euro was 29.5c/l. After 25 years, we're still getting this price.
"We're supplying Aurivo, a smallish co-op in the west of Ireland with a scattered supplier base. They often pay as good a price as larger co-ops.
"But they all should be paying a higher price. Farmers have invested hugely in co-ops, in drying facilities. It's time they saw the returns."
Donal believes that supermarkets also have a part to play when it comes to giving greater returns to farmers.
"My friends think I'm daft, staying up late working almost every night, working seven days a week in February, March and April. I like what I'm doing.
"I love making a good product but I'm doing it so I can get a good price. I'm not doing it just to create jobs for Aurivo," says Donal.
"Supermarkets need to play a part. Things like own-branded milk are driving down the price of milk.
"There was a poll done in France a few years ago asking consumers if there was 10c added on to the price of milk who would they like to see get it - farmers, supermarkets or processor? Most of them said the farmer."
Value added products
Sean believes that as processors have been able to add more value to dairy products, farmers should see better profits.
"They have added value to their products, they've moved ahead of other industries like beef since the intervention, with the introduction of things like Bailey's cream, yoghurt, cheeses etc. But this value hasn't been passed back to suppliers.
"Sometimes milk goes up to 36 cents and there are headlines about dairy farmers making a fortune. But within a year it can drop down to 24c/l.
"The increase in volume is benefiting the consumer and the processor but not the farmer. Consumers in Ireland and around Europe are conscious of food quality and are prepared to pay for what they see as quality."
He also says that the percentage of income spent on food has decreased in recent years, but that this should be higher, especially considering the quality of Ireland's produce.
"As a society we only pay 10pc of our income on food, but when I started it was closer to 30pc. If margins keep getting stretched, there'll be nothing left in farming.
"We have great products. Irish butter is number one in Germany and two in North America. It's a great product that shows people want to buy it," he says.
"We're the number one exporter of infant formula in the world. I remember someone said years ago that if we could start exporting infant formula we would be making money, but there's no trickle-down effect, we're not seeing any benefit from it - we need to see more of a return."
Farming might not always deliver the desired financial returns, but there are plenty of positives associated with life on the land for the Connaughton family, who set up a partnership between Sean, Liz and Donal in 2018.
"It's not all doom and gloom, it's a great lifestyle to have, especially over the last few weeks it was better than any job," says Donal.
"I can play a match in the evenings or mam and dad can go on holidays when they want."
Liz, who also works on the farm, was also adamant that a partnership was easier to work out with close family members involved.
"It was simpler in a family situation, easier than someone coming in. It's important to do it right from the start and to write everything down, share work, and make sure everyone is singing off the one hymn sheet," she says.
Sean believes that having a partner involved on the farm allows for better understanding and communication between them about the complexities of farming, something which can be lost if the partner is working full-time in an off-farm job.
"If you have a partner in a 9-to-5 job, they might not understand the long hours. Having a partner involved in the farm means there is a better understanding and keeps things going".
Sean also believes that working in a partnership requires equal input from all parties involved.
"Setting up a partnership was great for tax and grant reasons, but if one person is making all the decisions, it won't work in the long run," says Sean.
"It's like a football team, no team won a championship with a load of 40-year-olds. You need young blood coming in to push things along.
"Teams do well when young lads come in and push the standard on a bit. Farming is the same.
"You're doing the young farmer no service if you're not giving any responsibility. Donal has plenty of responsibility and oversees grass management and breeding. But neither of us go on solo runs."
Sean also believes that young farmers should gain experience elsewhere before returning to their own farm.
"It's also important Donal got experience elsewhere before coming home.
"He got great experience in college when he went on placement in New Zealand and afterwards in Scotland, where he got more.
"Travel broadens the mind. He brought so much more to the table. If he came back straight away after college, he would be doing what I'm doing.
"My grandson Glyn is 14 and is mad about farming, so I'd be encouraging him to get as much experience as possible as well."