FOR Michael O’Sullivan and his family, farming is much more than a chosen career.
Michael is the fourth generation of O’Sullivan’s farming in Upper Froe outside Rosscarbery. ‘I didn’t choose farming, I don’t think anybody really decides to go farming, it’s something that chooses you I suppose what I mean is you have to be born to it really,’ Michael told The Southern Star.
Michael farms 145 acres on which he milks 50 cows and keeps 140 head of cattle. While the farm has always been a mixed enterprise, Michael feels that the dairying side gives a lot more structure.
‘The way I see it, the dairying side of things is my main business, but the operation here allows me to have the cattle side of the business as well. But as I’ve said dairying is my main concern, Michael said.
Michael’s son, Niall (20), is currently in his second year at Darrara Agricultural College in Clonakilty and is destined to take over the day to day running of the farm: ‘Niall, is very interested in the dairying side of things and helps out here when he is not in college.
‘I do see a future for the family farm, not only in West Cork but across the country. We will all have to get more efficient and be willing to adapt to whatever the markets throw at us but I am very optimistic and very positive for the future,’ Michael continued.
While Michael welcomes the abolition of milk quotas, he feels that where once it was the quota that limited the growth of his business, it is now the lack and availability of land plus fluctuations in market prices that will determine the growth or stagnation of the dairy farmer in Ireland.
‘The price of milk is now our new quota, there’s no point in producing milk if you’re not going to be paid for it. But I am optimistic about the future,’ Michael said.
The O’Sullivan’s, Michael, his wife Kitty, daughters Deirdre (21), Amy (15) and son Niall, have a lot of support from other family members who live in area, should they need to call on them.
‘We don’t get in help from outside, my brothers live very close to us and all we have to do is call should we need their help. We milk all year round and this support is very appreciated for holidays or the odd day here and there,’ Michael continued.
As for farm support from the various farm agencies Michael feels that he is very well served should he require advice and business support.
‘I use a private consultant who is based in Clonakilty. I have nothing against Teasgasc, but I find that the farming consultant we use is somebody that we have gotten to know over the years and this is very important I feel.
‘They know us and are used to us and we get to deal with someone who is familiar and who isn’t moved to another section of the country and we have to get to know a new advisor and they have to get to know us. For me, I like the continuity of a locally based consultant,’ Michael said.
Michael feels he is very lucky when it comes to where his farm is located: ‘With most of the applications and forms moving to online, we are very lucky here that we have good access to reliable broadband. This facility is becoming more and more important, whether it’s registering new calfs, submitting applications or just research, broadband has fast become an important tool for farmers.
‘I know that there will be problems in the future if good broadband services are not provided to farmers in remote areas and I think this is a problem that the government must address as soon as possible,’ Michael said.
Michael, as a member of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) feels that the family farm is the mainstay of rural life in Ireland.
‘There is a bright future for the family farm. The family farm, for us, is not only a business and a way of life, it’s my hobby as well. As long as we have dedicated family farmers there will be a future for rural life in Ireland,’ Michael concluded.