FARMING is indeed in the blood of Owen O’Brien from Cashelbeg, Enniskeane, and it was only natural that he took over the 100-acre family farm three years ago, having first leased it from his father.
Owen’s hard work of measuring milk records every six weeks as well as taking extra care of his herd, has certainly paid off for him and he was delighted recently to have been nominated by Bandon Co-Op for the NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards.
While he didn’t win the overall prize, which was won incidentally by another West Cork farmer, Kieran O’Sullivan from Goleen, Owen did make the final 13 in the competition and it’s something he’s incredibly proud of. In fact, West Cork was well represented with the O’Mahonys from Shanakiel in Kilbrittain claiming runner up prize after being nominated by Barryroe Co-op.
‘It was nice to get nominated in the first place and it’s great that the quality of the milk my cows are producing is up such good level that Bandon Co-Op saw fit to nominate me for such a prestigious national competition,’ said Owen.
Owen currently milks 64 cows with a dozen replacement calves and last year he supplied 331,00 litres of milk to Bandon Co-op. Married to Rosaleen, they have two young children, Daniel and Amy, so things can get a bit hectic on the farm.
While he doesn’t have anyone else employed with him, his parents still help out on the farm and they are an invaluable help to him. When Owen finished school he went onto Darrara Agricultural College where he spent time in New Zealand as part of a farm placement and it opened his eyes to a lot of new farming techniques.
‘The milk quota was well gone there so it was interesting to see how farmers there were operating without the restrictions that were imposed on us here. While most people in my class opted to do their work placement in Cork, I decided to explore something different and I learnt a lot of things there in an amazing country.’
The abolition of the EU milk quota hasn’t seen Owen expand his herd much as he says he has a small land base and he can’t expand much more. Running such a well-kept farm is time-consuming, but Owen feels that outside advice and help is very beneficial.
‘I’m joined up with Teagasc and I take part in various discussions groups and I can’t fault them. They are great at giving advice and they give you an independent point of view too.’
Doing the paperwork too is part and parcel of life for every farmer and Owen sees it as the ‘bane’ of most farmers but it has to be done.
‘It’s increasing every year, but I do cover most of it online. I register the calves online as well as the milk recordings and I do my banking online too so the technology is definitely getting better.’
Farming is something that Owen thoroughly enjoys and he’s happy enough with how his farm is doing.
‘It’s very hard to know really about the future of family farms, but we try and be as profitable as we can. I do love being my own boss and the fact that I don’t have to commute to get to work and, while the work can sometimes be hard, it’s still very enjoyable. But definitely being your own boss is the best thing about being a farmer,’ added Owen.
It’s the constant unpredictability of prices that Owen feels is the biggest challenge for farmers: ‘Last year was good for milk prices, but this year milk prices are down and I reckon the recovery will be slow enough.’
When Owen isn’t working on the farm, he does take time out to go on holidays and socialise and go to the odd Cork match when he has the time.
‘It’s a great career choice being a farmer and it’s a good way of life, but then again it mightn’t be for everyone.’