Martin Walsh meets Daniel Whelton who runs a pig fattening operation at Lislevane
The very mention of Barryroe conjures up the image of thriving dairy farmlands. Yet, right in the heart of the scenic landscape is one of the biggest piggeries that thrives amongst its neighbouring and albeit more traditional farmlands.
Lislevane’s Daniel Whelton was always interested in this particular facet of farming: ‘We have always been pig farmers. After finishing secondary school, my father was in the farm and it was always an interest I had.’
However, its not the usual pig farm as Daniel explains: ‘We don’t breed pigs which is a bit unusual these days. It’s all fattening, from three months to six months; we would have a couple of thousand pigs in stock any one time. We fatten them up to slaughtering weights and then they are slaughtered”
There is land adjoining the piggery complex at Lislevane as well, but Daniel points out that the 30 acres is leased out.
Like most Barryroe natives, the co-op is woven into the fabric of their daily life: ‘We have been very lucky with Barryroe Co-Op owning Staunton’s as well. It’s a local factory in West Cork. It was a big move for Barryroe Co-Op to open the factory.
‘In Barryroe itself, there is a only a couple of us farming in pigs and, even when you look at it nationally, we are a very small minority – there is only 300 commercial piggeries in the whole country.’ The Lislevane piggery concern was started by Daniel’s father, Paddy.
While the abolition of the milk quota has no specific or direct consequences for Daniel, there is a tangent that he can equate with in his own industry: ‘There is a lot of talk about volatility in milk now too. In pig farming we have had (price) volatility with years.
‘We have always seen prices go up and down – huge increases and decreases. We’ve been accustomed to that, now dairy farmers are seeing it.’
On farm services, he said: ‘I use Teagasc quite a bit and they are very good. There is a great research centre in Moorepark (Fermoy) and they are expanding. Their advisors are very good.’
Daniel is pragmatic about paperwork: ‘You have no choice, you have to keep it up to date, however computerisation makes it easier. Things like single farm payments in pigs – you don’t get any grants or subsidies from the EU, we never have. However, there is something in recent times that we’ve been promised – a flat rate payment of €3,000 from the government, but it is yet to come. Generally speaking, pig farmers have never got any EU subsidies or government grants as such.’
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‘The pig side of farming is different and even what we do (fattening) is also completely different to the breeding side you know.’ He added: ‘Every farm is different, there are challenges everywhere and you have to move with the different technologies.’
Married to Siobháin, they have three children – Caoimhe (9), Cathal (8) and Elaine (4). Naturally, sport is also an intrinsic part for the former second row: ‘I love sport, I started with GAA, then rowing and rugby. I played rugby with Clonakilty.
‘These days I have reverted to rowing (Courtmacsherry Rowing Club). I love cycling as well.’
While Daniel’s farm is different, he reckons that for any anyone starting from scratch, any type of farming would be difficult due to the level of investment needed: ‘The farms that are there are there. Certainly, for any young person looking for a good career, while farming is difficult presently, it’s still a great job, but you do have to like it.’