Farm Ireland

Friday 17 November 2017

'The younger generation are making sure they have a job off farm'

My week: Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers
Thomas Rogers

Ken Whelan

Thomas Rogers has three main interests in life - cows, milk and the weather and all three of them are giving him some serious pause for thought.

The cows are fine on his farm in Bailieboro, Co Cavan and their milk is also fine but the prices need fattening up. As for the weather - that hasn't been fine for most of the year.

Thomas reckons that bad weather adds at least 3c per litre to the production cost of milk when you take into account the cost of putting cows in sheds during the many downpours we have had so far this year, lost grazing time and the additional slurry costs created when a farmer has to house his herd.

"And then you have to deal with the damage to the land," he adds ruefully.

Thomas, who is in his 60s, farms 20ha outside Bailieboro on the Cavan-Meath border and is the sixth generation of the family to do so.

He also leases a further 25ha to cater for his 70 head of Friesians and their followers. The farm supplies its milk to Lakeland Dairies.

"All sorts of farming took place here but I have concentrated on the dairy parlour. My father reared cattle, pigs and turkeys on the land when the farm was smaller. It was the same for all farmers around here at the time. But it's cows and milk for me," he says.

Married to Georgina - who hails from Co Meath - the couple have three children, all of whom have shown enough farming savvy to ensure that the land is handed down to a seventh generation.

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The eldest Laura (23) is an agriculture graduate currently doing a masters degree and working with Lakeland as a quality agri-auditor. Younger brother Thomas is pursuing his agriculture studies at Ballyhaise Agricultural College and Dundalk IT, while the youngest Rachel (15) is still in second level education.

"Georgina is very handy around the farm, especially at calving time, but they are all good around the farm and they all help at milking time.

"Any of them could take over the farm but I wonder about the future," says Thomas.

"The way it's going at the moment the younger generation are thinking of making sure they have a job off-farm before returning to the land," he adds. So I ask if he is happy with the milk price?

"No, but it is rising. We are getting 25c/l from Lakeland and have been promised some more. And I heard recently that the Brexit business may affect that rise. The situation is simple: to produce milk profitably you have got to get over 30c/l.

"The current price means making a living is more difficult."

But back to the main issue of last week - the weather.

"Things have improved over the past few days. The weather has been fine and the cattle are out at grass. But we still have to deal with the slurry caused by the constant housing of cattle.

"The slurry deadline in a week's time will not be met. It will have to be put back to November because the slurry can't be moved - and if the weather gets bad again the deadline will have to go back even further," Thomas says with conviction.

"And God knows what effect will that have on next year," he muses.

Indo Farming