Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

'We decided to concentrate on what we do best'

My week: Philip Murphy

Philip Murphy, from Killabeg outside Ferns in Co Wexford.
Philip Murphy, from Killabeg outside Ferns in Co Wexford.
The new Leeb GS6 Horsch sprayer which is pictured working a 125ac field of spring malting barley in Wicklow. Photo: Roger Jones.

Ken Whelan

Thing are flying for Philip Murphy on the crop spraying front and he hopes it remains that way until he finishes his work on the 2,000ac of tillage land that the family own or hold in long term leases across three counties.

The Murphy family - dad Martin Snr, who is now in his 60s, big brother Martin Jnr who is in his mid 30s and Philip who is rising thirty - have been growing malting barley for 40 years.

Originally the farm was originally tillage interspersed with livestock but went over to an exclusively tillage enterprise around 10 years ago.

The family have been farming for three generations at their home base in Killabeg outside Ferns in Co Wexford and they have also expanded into Wicklow and Carlow.

Philip's Leeb GS6 Horsch is a familiar site across the region at this time of year as the Murphys have become one of the main suppliers to Boortmalt in Enniscorthy who are the main malt providers for Guinness and Heineken in this country.

They switched to tillage only because, in Philip's words, they came to the conclusion that the best way forward for their enterprise was to "concentrate on what we did best".

And that's means 100pc growing quality malting ­barley, winter barley and wheat and beans.

Using the home farm as a base they expanded through further land acquisitions and by leasing farms and conacre as the opportunities arose and they have built up what is a very substantial operation.

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The fact that they did some agricultural contracting as well helped.

The farms range in size from 400ac down to smaller holdings of 50ac.

The three Murphys have intertwining roles on the farms but Philip is the acknowledged spray man.

"You could do 400ac a day if the timing and weather was right but you must ­remember that different farms and soils have different treatment ­programmes and applications.

"And in any given season there could be three to four sprays required," Philip explains.

And glancing at the early crops this year he believes everything has been "good" though, as always, it's fingers crossed for the later crops.

While Philip is concentrating on the spraying, the "Two Martins" are cracking on with the first cut of silage, which is " yielding well"

I ask Philip if malt and tillage prices generally are matching the promising outcomes on the cultivation side.

"Prices are not great at the moment but we know that this can all change overnight with fluctuating world markets as we have seen in the past."

So no regrets then on the tillage decision and any thoughts of changing enterprise again, I ask Philip.

"No," he replies to the first question and to the second, he says: "No, we have no plans of getting into any other area anytime soon".

With things so busy on the tillage front it seems almost an impertinence on my part to ask him what he does in his spare time.

"Life is mostly working and the usual socialising but for the past while a lot of my spare time has been spent on wedding planning with my fiancée Pauline O'Hara as we are getting married in ­November this year," he reveals.

"Pauline is a solicitor from Wexford and over the years she has found out that the joys of marrying a tillage farmer mean that all forms of socialising are weather dependent," Philip adds

His hopes for the future are simple: "I want to see the business continue to grow and be successful and be something that I'll be proud to hand down to the next generation".

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