Farm Ireland

Monday 26 February 2018

Time for some realism over partnerships

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

For a whole generation, the most profitable sector in Irish farming was a closed shop.

However, the dismantling of the 30-year-old milk quota system is already under way and the doors will be flung open completely in 2015. It poses a great opportunity for youngsters who dream of making a living from their own farm.

It may also be the answer to many an ageing dairy farmer's concerns.

Dairying is never going to be a handy number, regardless of the scale or returns involved. The fact is that commercial scale operations need young blood to keep the milk flowing.

There are plenty of dairy farmers out there that don't have children interested in taking over the operation, despite considerable investments of time and money over many years. These are valuable operations without enthusiastic heirs.

So it was a highly pertinent briefing that was organised by Macra na Feirme for the Guild of Agricultural Journalists in Horse and Jockey last week. Five young men, who had either an unviable farm or no farm at all to get stuck into at home, outlined what their aspirations were for the future. All wanted to be involved in large-scale dairy units.


In the same room, a number of dairy farmers with significant operations spoke about their plans to continue on their farming operations in the absence of a successor. Some had turned to forestry, while others had become involved in successful milking partnerships. Most, though, were still on the lookout for a partner.

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It was a refreshingly frank encounter on a subject that is often stifled by the sensitivity surrounding it. The young men voiced their belief that many farmers were just interested in getting in 'a number' to do the heavy lifting, while the landowner sat back and reaped the rewards.

Farmers need to be wary of this perception festering. More than ever, the industry needs to be able to attract the brightest and the best.

But the wannabe farmers also need to take a hard look at themselves. When asked how far they would be prepared to travel to find a suitable partnership, many indicated that they would not be prepared to move more than a mile or two from their home.

While enthusiasm is important, young people interested in getting started in farming partnerships need a healthy dose of realism.

But it's difficult for both sides of prospective partnerships to know what they should expect in the current vacuum.

It's time that a farm organisation started informing and connecting interested parties.

Indo Farming