“I’m the third son of a family of six. I was fortunate to get a good education and I am a vocation farmer. In other words, I could be in other jobs but I chose to be a farmer. My father bought this place back in the 50s and he developed it. I did an agricultural science degree at UCD and graduated in 1983. I came home then, back to farm. I never worked for anybody; I’ve been self-employed all my life.

I actually only officially became the farmer in ’87 when I got married, built a house, bought land and built a milking parlour all in the space of 12 months. By December ’87, if my wife, (who is a towns person), knew what I owed the banks, she would probably have left! But anyway, we got through it.

Mary is my wife; she is a nurse from a publican family in Thurles. When we got married, we were given the option of a pub and under no circumstances would I take a pub because at least with farming you might work a long day but you can finish at seven or eight in the evening. If you are in a pub, you get busy at nine o’clock at night and you work away until two o’clock in the morning. That was not an option for us. We have one boy and four girls in that order.

Family Farming

Farm wise, we had a mixed farm where we had dairy cows, we had some cattle, we had tillage. The farm has developed a lot. We are still mixed farmers; we still have cows; we sell our cattle as stores. We grow our own crops; maize, barley and fodder beet all for our own stock. My son, Tadhg is here now and he is hopefully going to take charge in the next couple of years. We are family farmers and I believe in family farmers. I believe in the countryside; I believe in agriculture. Farmers today have two roles: number one they are primary food producers and secondly, they’ll have to assume a role of custodians of the environment. I’m proud to be a farmer. I often say, technology is great and I use a lot of technology myself but a hungry person has never eaten a computer!

I actually think the term farm should be gotten rid of and the word primary food producer, custodian of the environment should replace it. Farmers now are regarded by a lot of people as almost like a dirty word. Cattle are the new coal. We are seen as the cause of all the problems: the guys in rural Ireland cut turf, they burn timber and they keep

Remember one thing: no farmers, no food.

a few cattle. And we are being told that is the cause of all our problems nowadays, apparently.

In the future, I’d have great confidence. Food will always be required and if there is less of it produced, which might be the case, well, t’will get dearer. Our income will probably stay the same. At the moment it is a very high-risk business. But lookit, farmers are programmed to stay in business. If they don’t, there will be no food. Remember one thing: no farmers, no food.

I am a dairy farmer and I am an intensive dairy farmer but things are going to become less intensive in the next number of years. In a hundred years’ time there will still be farmers, they will still be producing food. They will probably be by then custodians of the environment as well.

Looking after the countryside

If society wants a better environment and if they want the countryside to be looked after, well then people have to stay living in the countryside. A barren countryside won’t look after itself. People need to be properly rewarded for properly looking after the environment.

I wake early. I think as a family we are driven. My brothers, my sisters, it probably has something got to do with our parents. I often say, personally myself, I still believe that my father is talking to me from his grave. I often wonder what would he say if he came back.

Here in Templetuohy, we bound counties Laois and Kilkenny. On certain days of the year, usually Sundays when there are matches on, I often say that some of my best friends are my enemies! When the girls were younger, they played football with Moyne Templetuohy GAA and athletics with Moyne Athletic Club. That kept us busy going over and back to training.

We are calving at the moment. I find the breeding season harder than the calving. Most of the cows calve on their own. With the breeding you are watching all the time. The technology is a help but it is intensive. We usually take a break once all the calving is done and before we get into the breeding. Mary and myself head off and nowadays we head for the sun!”

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