‘What hap­pens if we end up with a milk lake af­ter all this ex­pan­sion?’

Irish Independent - Farming - - RURAL LIFE - JOHN McCOR­MACK In con­ver­sa­tion with Ken Whe­lan

THIS YEAR’S hot weather has had a mea­sur­able fi­nan­cial im­pact on John McCor­mack’s dairy en­ter­prise in Mayo.

The milk yield from his herd of 75 pedi­gree Hol­steins was down 25,000 litres dur­ing the sum­mer heat­wave and he de­scribes the silage crop as be­ing on the thin side.

Over­all, he says it’s has been the most dif­fi­cult year weather-wise since he took over the home farm back in the 1980s.

“And to make mat­ters worse I took an early guar­an­teed price of 28c/l for some of my milk, and the price has av­er­aged 35c/l this year,” John laments.

“That’s farm­ing for you. You are ei­ther on top of a hump or down in a hol­low.”

But John, 70, in­tends to con­tinue farm­ing as long as his health al­lows. He farms 130 acres be­tween the home place in Bal­ly­heane out­side Castle­bar, along with a 45-acre out­farm two kilo­me­tres away.

His daugh­ter Claire, an Athenry Agri­cul­tural Col­lege graduate who works full-time with Aurivo, also helps out.

John and wife Bri­die have three other adult chil­dren in their 30s — Sean, Breege, and Sheila, who are set­tled in Shan­non, West­port and Leitrim re­spec­tively.

‘Claire is a great help and is well qual­i­fied to take over the farm when the time comes,” says John.

“Af­ter she got her agri­cul­ture qual­i­fi­ca­tions she worked on three farms in Cork, Meath and Hol­ly­mount be­fore re­turn­ing home. At the mo­ment she takes care of the heifers on the out­farm.”

Apart from the usual farm­ing pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the weather — and Storm Diana was lash­ing rain in the Castle­bar area when we spoke last week — John has to make sure his pedi­gree Hol­stein bull works his magic on the 21 cows still not cov­ered,

Silage

Then the ques­tion of silage for the win­ter months has to be ad­dressed.

On Ir­ish agri­cul­ture in gen­eral, John fears that the re­lent­less ex­pan­sion in dairy­ing is now stray­ing into the realm of over-pro­duc­tion.

It is a dan­ger he feels Min­is­ter Michael Creed and the co-ops should be ur­gently ad­dress­ing.

John’s ad­vice is based on ex­pe­ri­ence; he has seen it all in the dairy sec­tor.

He started off in milk in 1981 and has in­vested heav­ily in the pur­chase of milk quota over the years to build up to the 75-cow herd that he has to­day.

“What hap­pens if we end up with a milk lake at the end of this cur­rent phase of ex­pan­sion? And how will the over-stretched new en­trants to the sec­tor deal with that?” he asks.

In John’s view the best way to avoid over-pro­duc­tion is a sta­ble milk sup­ply regime which would squeeze the com­mod­ity spec­u­la­tion out of the mar­ket.

Off-farm John’s main in­ter­ests are soc­cer — he is an Arse­nal fan — and he takes an avid in­ter­est in the GAA, although be­comes some­what down­hearted when he thinks of Mayo’s mis­for­tunes. “It’s like the mid-1960s again these days — we have a great team but no All Ire­land.”

Along with the soc­cer and foot­ball, John likes to un­wind on week­end nights by play­ing a hand of 25 with friends.

THAT’S FARM­ING FOR YOU — YOU ARE EI­THER ON TOP OF A HUMP OR DOWN IN A HOL­LOW

PHOTO: KEITH HENEGHAN

John McCor­mack on his dairy farm at Bal­ly­heane, Co Mayo

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