'It's who shouts the loudest... if spud men get in trouble, they don't care'

Ivan Curran and his wife Frances at Broadleas Farm, Stamullen, Co Meath. Photo by Mark Condren
Ivan Curran and his wife Frances at Broadleas Farm, Stamullen, Co Meath. Photo by Mark Condren

While more and more farmers in Meath are switching to dairying, Ivan is determined to keep driving on with potatoes in a county that has always been a tillage stronghold.

"Dairy herds are getting bigger here. There are lads switching to dairying and then there are lads who are just expanding. We're competing with dairy farmers for land which wasn't the case 20 years ago - or even five years ago. They're all just sizing up," says Ivan.

He adds that he understands why farmers are switching to dairying as it involves less machinery and facilities than some tillage operations. "Potatoes are very heavy in investment," he says.

"They're very hard on machinery, it takes a lot of machinery. If you had the same amount of land in dairying, maybe one tractor and teleporter would be all you need."

He says the focus at government level on dairying and livestock farming means tillage often gets overlooked.

"It's like everything else, there's 20 or maybe 40 dairy men to every potato man, so you know it's political as well. It's about who shouts the loudest. If spud men get in trouble over a bad year, they don't care. If 5,000 dairy men roar and shout, farm organisations will step in. They get listened to more, but what can you do?"

Ivan keeps 200 Limousin and Charolais cattle at Broadleas farm as he enjoys rearing them, but says he wouldn't like to be relying on them as an income source.

"It wasn't a good year for us here regards price. We buy and rear them as calves and feed them our own barley and waste potatoes so we don't have to go out looking for feed at least."

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