The importance of shared goals was central to a discussion at the Dairy Women Ireland conference held in Kildare on Saturday.

Cork couple Siobhan and Mitch Hayes and Westmeath-based couple Elaine and Pat Hickey shared their experiences of farming and family life to the crowd of over 200 people for the second Dairy Women Ireland conference.

Siobhan Hayes works off farm as a midwife, while Elaine Hickey gave up work as a teacher to concentrate on farming and bringing up their four children.

Both couples are very active on the farm, with Siobhan looking after calf rearing in between working as a midwife.

Siobhan and Mitchel have three daughters in their 20s, while the Hickey children are much younger so that brings different challenges.

Communication key

Both said that communication between each partner is a key part of ensuring the development of their roles on the farm.

Moving in together after marriage was identified as a time for potential stress and conflict between couples, especially where the spouse’s parents are living in close proximity.

Siobhan said that understanding other people’s perspectives is very important at this time, as to understand behaviours will help to change behaviours and build relationships.

Also speaking at the conference was Barry Murphy from FDC Accountants, who said that household income, paid from the farm but independent from how well the farm is operating, is essential for family harmony.

He said that debt is essential to grow a dairy farm business, but that one must be comfortable with it and must be realistic about when it will be paid back.