'We are dictated to by bureaucracy on everything'

My week: Paul Cusack, LemyBrien, Co Waterford - dairy farmer

Paul Cusack: You're no longer your own boss.
Paul Cusack: You're no longer your own boss.

Ken Whelan

Paul Cusack has had a 'good' stormy season so far at his farm in Lemybrien in Co Waterford with no flooding or damage apart from a few trees knocked down on the land.

"We are about 300 metres above sea level and the farm slopes down to a small river which drains the lands. Not like over in Cappoquin where the Blackwater broke its banks and caused all sorts of problems," he says.

"We have been lucky, but like everyone else we have had to put up with the weather. It's just depressing, bleak, cold and miserable isn't it."

He recently loaned his Case tractor to a neighbour whose Zetor has broken down and has to take a break in the conversation so that he can explain the Case tractor controls to his neighbour in need.

"I can't complain. The cows are in and at the moment I am cleaning the cubicles," he says when we resume talking.

The 44-year-old runs a dairy enterprise on the 100ac home farm and rents an additional 60ac to cover his mixed herd of 85 Holstein and Hereford cows, which produce an average of 5,500 litres of milk per head with good solids for Glanbia.

He started farming with his father, Paddy, and mother, Mary, after completing his Green Cert studies in Kildalton in 1991 and now runs the farm with their help.

His siblings include four sisters: Emily, a nurse; Maire, an accountant; Clare who recently retired from her commercial photography business to concentrate on rearing her family and Carmel, who runs a furniture business in England. His younger brother William has also taken the photography route.

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So how come there are two photographers in the family, I ask Paul, who matter of factly replies: "Don't know really - it's just 'arty 'stuff'."

Like all dairy farmers Paul is not over the moon with the milk price. He is getting 31c/l for his milk at the moment and believes the proper commercial price should be 39c/l.

"Last spring I was over quota a bit and had to cut back to milking once a day and I missed a good March cheque and then the price dropped in July. But I suppose you have to take the good with the bad," he says philosophically.

Whatever about the milk price, Paul all but unravels when he considers the amount of regulation and paperwork which farmers have to put up with as part of their daily lives.

"When I started off you were independent and you were your own boss but that's no longer the case. You are now dictated to by bureaucracy.

"You can't do anything but they have their say and there are new rules every year whether from the Department of Agriculture or Bord Bia or whoever. And all these rules are adding to the costs of production.

"It's a different world now than when I started off and the costs are getting higher and higher. Fertiliser and meal are all up and the price of cutting an acre of silage, to give you an example, has risen from €50 an acre to €110 an acre All these costs are making it harder for the farmer to get a margin," he says.

So what does Paul do for some relaxation, I ask.

"I try to get a holiday after the first cut of silage in the summer. Didn't get one this year because my father wasn't well but I have been to China, the States around 10 times and most European countries. I'm not a hurler but I watch the Waterford team on TV and I spend the weekends meeting my neighbours."

So any new plans for this year I ask. "Well I rear the bull calves until they are bullocks at one and a half and this year I think I'll only keep the Herefords who get a better price at Dungarvan mart," he says.

Indo Farming

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