Nicole Keohane, Cork

“Our farm is in derogation and I’m not ashamed to say it. We’re going into succession and [I want] to get out of derogation which is a great long-term plan but, in the meantime, we do require it and we need it to stay.

“We’ve seen a lot of the measures they’ve brought in to improve water quality in recent years and we have seen that improvement. We also haven’t given it enough time to see the full effect of those measures. It’s really unfair and we’ve constantly been beaten down with a stick.”

Cork dairy farmer Nicole Keohane.

Sandra Millar, Cork

“Nitrates [changes] will impact everyone. When you’re looking at the environment, things have to change. It’ll be a case of having to do it rather than wanting to do it. We probably will have to reduce stocking rates.

“The bigger farmer should be looked at first because the smaller farmer, the family farm, they’re struggling in comparison. So, if they are to reduce numbers, start with the bigger farmer. Reduce his numbers and the impact won’t be as much and you’re still getting your numbers down.”

Cork dairy farmer Sandra Millar.

Jack O’Donnell, Waterford

“I’m milking just 80 cows and do a bit of beef on the side for our sins. [Nitrates changes] are a massive concern. There’s a lot of people out there who’ve highly stocked farms. They’re definitely going to see big impacts on it. They’ve no other choice.

“Changes are coming so fast now you have to adapt so fast to them. The likes of all this clover incorporation. It’s fine to do it but to actually put them into practice is very hard.”

Waterford dairy farmer Jack O’Donnell.

Declan Lally, Galway

“I started milking two years ago. We built with a bang last year. We’ve 192 cows this year. I’ll stick in around that.

“Nitrates won’t impact my farm personally but, obviously, there are farmers with the banding. Because of the banding, you’re getting hit on the double.

“When it goes to 220kg N, the next stop is what? They’ll probably look to reduce it down again. The science is showing that the impact is marginal on bringing it down from 250kg N to 220kg N.”

Galway dairy farmers Declan and Gráinne Lally.

Diarmuid Rowe, Kilkenny

“Changes to the nitrates derogation will mean a reduction in stocking rates for dairy farms. This reduction isn’t wanted by the vast majority of farmers. Dairy farmers are going above and beyond to improve Irish water quality and the Government needs to appreciate that.

“The proposed cow cull scheme wouldn’t be something I’d consider. As a young farmer, I need to look at at least maintaining our herd size if we want to be viable going forward.”

Kilkenny dairy farmer Diarmuid Rowe.

Paul Keating, Tipperary

“We should be OK at the 220kg [organic N per hectare]. If it goes below that, we’re in trouble. I think the minister could do a little bit more on keeping it.

“A cull scheme wouldn’t apply to us. We wouldn’t be going for it. Some fellas want out and they can’t. It’ll depend how it’s financed and the terms and conditions. Milk price is fairly well close to cost of production now.

“Next winter it will start to really bite when costs start coming into it. Retailers know full well price cuts will be passed back.”

Tipperary dairy farmers Paul and Marie Keating.

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