Dairy Farmer Cathal Moran on this Year’s Dairy Summer Tour
The Irish Grassland Association Dairy Summer Tour is a firm fixture on the farming calendar, attracting hundreds of farmers from around Ireland as they share their knowledge, network and socialise. Ahead of this year’s event, we caught up with Cathal Moran who is hosting one of the tours on his Kilkenny farm on the 25th July.
Lessons in Leasing
Each year, the event explores a topical theme and 2017 is no exception. Cathal explains: “The theme is Farming on Leased Land. I know the other host farmer, Jamie Kealy, farms on 100% leased land and ours is north of 60%.”
On the day, Cathal will be sharing the practical knowledge on leasing that he’s built up in his 28-year farming career. For example, when it comes to leasing, one of the most important factors is the relationship between the land owner and leaser. He explains: “It’s crucial. Every relationship is built on trust, and when leasing, the land owners become one of your key stakeholders. You have to look after them in a proper fashion. They have to know their land is being looked after and they have to trust that - and vice versa. So be totally open. It’s not a game of cards. There has to be full transparency in both directions.”
Another key stakeholder, Cathal explains, is the bank - particularly when it comes to cashflow. He notes: “They’d be a key stakeholder too and you have to get on well with them or you’re fooling yourself. What is banking or lending about? It’s about relationships and relationship building. There’s an old thing that used to be said, You lend to the person not to the business. AIB have been nothing but supportive over the years.”
Down to Earth
The authenticity of the Grasslands tour appeals to Cathal and he tries to attend any year he can. He explains: “I think because there’s no trade involved in it, there’s no vested interest in it. It’s basically farmers telling their story as they see it. The people behind it - the Grassland Association - they’re 70-75 years at it. They’re a voluntary organisation with nothing but the best interests of dairy farmers at heart. It’s a practical occasion where people tell it as they see it.”
With 2017 designated as the Year of Sustainable Grassland, the host farmers will also be sharing their tips on sustainable grass production. Cathal notes: “You can be paying money for leased land and it’s not achieving its maximum benefit. It’s not just about growing grass, it’s about sustainability. I’ve seen in the news lately that the most carbon efficient farms tend to be the most profitable and sustainable in terms of how they produce grass.”
Soil fertility plays a key role in sustainable farming. Cathal explains: “Soil fertility isn’t just about pH or P or K or sulphur. It’s about all of them and getting them up to the optimum. At that point, all you have to do is put in what you take out and you’re growing the maximum amount of grass in conjunction with good grass varieties. But why have a weak link? Why put a pile of nitrogen on to something that the pH is the limiting factor to? It’s a question of getting it all right and knowing what’s going on, sometimes learning the hard way.”
A Positive Outlook
One of the things Cathal enjoys about the tour is being surrounded by positivity. “I think usually the type of people you see are positive people and that kind of reinforces what they’re doing and where they’re going. There’s usually a lesson or two, good and bad, to be learnt from it. And a bit of adrenaline floats around. The feel-good factor is afloat,” He says.
As for dairy farming in Ireland, Cathal is optimistic about the future and acknowledges that the removal of milk quotas has had a massive impact on Irish dairy farming. He notes: “It’s probably the most optimistic period we’ve ever had. Once quotas went, all the doors opened up. Even going back to when it was announced in ‘07/’08, there was a fundamental mind-change in people. It’s great because suddenly you have new entrants, and you need that. You need new blood to keep any industry thriving. It’s a vibrant and optimistic time.”
The 2017 Irish Grassland Association Dairy Summer Tour takes place on the 25th July 2017 and is sponsored by AIB.
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