Kieran O’Mahony talks to dairy farmer JAMES KINGSTON about his eventful year gone by
THE recent financial controversies surrounding the IFA have of course dented the confidence of many of its members and here too in West Cork there is a feeling that it had got out of control.
James Kingston from Maulnageragh, Clonakilty is just one of many who feel the organisation needs ‘to get back to basics.’ He said: ‘I suppose they were paying them too much and they need to bring back confidence to its members and they can only do this by going back to basics.’
It’s been an eventful year for James who milks 70 cows on his 47-hectare farm as well as rearing his own replacement heifers. Earlier this year Lisavaird Co-Op nominated James to go forward for the National Quality Milk Awards and he picked up a national category award for Best Milk Protein.
‘It was a great honour to have been nominated by Lisavaird Co-Op and, once the nomination went in, I had three judges come down to see my farm and they inspected the facility as well as the herds and records.’
Now that the milk quota is gone, he feels that it is giving farmers like himself the freedom to expand and he hopes to increase his herd to 80 cows by next year. James has been running the farm for 13 years, where he lives with his parents, Thomas and Anne. The farm has been in his family for three generations and he relies on family and sometimes farm relief to help him out during the busy times of the season. He went to Rockwell Agricultural College after finishing school to learn more about farming and he worked on the family farm afterwards.
Being a farmer these days is all about being open to advice and new ideas and he sees the practical side of good farm advisory services. ‘I use farm advisory services a lot and I’m also involved in a discussion group with Teagasc which is very useful and it’s ideal for getting new information. I also use them for form filling and things to do with payment schemes and we also get to visit other farms and see what other leaders in the farming sector are doing different to ourselves.’
Filling out the paperwork that goes with running a farm doesn’t both James either.
‘Well you have no choice really as we have to do it but I’m okay with it and anyway most of it is done online. I also used farm software which I subscribe to which is very useful. The Department of Agriculture have also improved their IT systems and that’s good for registering calves.’
James also sees a future in family farms, which are crucial to the survival of rural areas across the country: ‘I do see a future for family farms and I’d be fairly confident that these farms are crucial to get things going in rural areas.
‘Of course there are challenges with everything, like for example, the price of milk this year, which may be slow to improve. But then again there are no restrictions and supply is growing.’
Farming is something that James loves and, while it can be tough at certain times of the season, it’s still a career that he thoroughly loves. ‘What’s great about the job is being your own boss and also I get to be out in the fresh air and not stuck in an office day in and day out.
‘Sure, the long hours can be tough especially during calving times around Spring where you could be out all night. Thankfully, technology is helping too and calving cameras can let me monitor them from inside the comfort of my home.’
Outside of the farm, James is involved in the annual Clonakilty Show and he is also chairman of the ICMSA as well as being a member of Ballinscarthy IFA. When he has the time, he likes nothing more than following his local Ballinscarthy GAA teams.
Farming is certainly a career that he would encourage young people to get into: ‘It’s important to have young people coming into it and there’s good encouragement and support out there. The milk production partnerships can also help them get involved and some also have the experience of their parents to help them.’