Brian Moore meets dairy farmer and honey producer Kevin Collins
Timoleague is the Land of Milk and Honey, well as far as dairy farmer and honey producer Kevin Collins is concerned.
Kevin’s forefathers have been milking cows in Gurranes for many generations and harvesting honey for even longer than that.
‘Our family have been here on this land since the late seventeen hundreds. They always milked, but the honey was in their blood, so to speak, and this was passed down through the generations,’ Kevin told The Southern Star.
The Collins family now milk 220 cows on 215 acres and of course not to forget the hundreds of beehives spread across the county for their Molaga Honey brand.
‘Before the end of the milk quota we had been increasing slowly. We bought land and quota, we started off with forty cows twenty years ago and built it up to what we have today,’ Kevin continued.
With the abolition of the milk quota Kevin feels that, while farmers are going to get paid for every litre they produce, it is the price paid for this milk that will now become the main issue. ‘We can produce away and get paid for this, whereas we penalised before.
‘However, I think the main focus that all dairy farmers will need to have now is a business that, not only produces good-quality milk, but is also highly efficient. With milk prices fluctuating as they have been, we’re all going to have to be constantly improving and streamlining our businesses to ensure that we can weather any market downturn in the future,’ Kevin said.
Kevin, who is a member of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) is now focusing more than ever on cost efficiencies and on cow fertility: ‘We want to produce more off grass. This cuts down on the use of concentrates over the winter but we also want to ensure that we have a quality milk at the end of the day,’ Kevin said.
Kevin and his family – his wife Kay and his daughters Caoimhe (13), Mira (11), Riona (9) and son Daragh (7) – have another business attached to their farm in Gurranes.
‘We’ve had beehives and honey here for as long as anyone can remember. It goes back generations and the honey we produce is now sold in most of the multiples nationwide,’ Kevin said.
Molaga Honey from Timoleague is not only sold across the country, but provides employment for local 20 farmers with over 370 hives spread out across West Cork. Molaga Honey bees now product over 70 tonnes of honey each year.
‘We have help on the dairying side of the business with three part-time employees and this is going well. We have great support from Teagasc and we are very lucky here to have quite good broadband.
This not only helps with the running of the farm, but is essential when it comes to dealing with our existing customers and any potential customers for Molaga Honey. Broadband development in rural areas must be a priority for the government, it will ensure that businesses and indeed farming will drive into the future,’ Kevin said.
Kevin’s father, Jerry Collins, has witnessed their honey brand grow significantly over the years: ‘We now have such a demand for our Molaga Honey from the multiples and from independent retailers across the country that we had to start importing honey from Portugal. We sell this honey under a different label so as to differentiate it from our locally-produced honey.
‘We decided that we wouldn’t just go and buy honey from a big supplier who would not have connection with the farmers who were producing it, so we found a group of small farmers in Portugal and, after tasting their honey, found that it was very close to our own. Plus we like the idea of dealing with local small farmers who benefit directly for selling to us,’ Jerry Collins concluded.