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We should protect the family farm

Inefficiencyof scale in the farming sector is being ignored to the determent of farming.

Farming by its nature is a high-cost, low-margin business.

Scale doesn’t work in farming because of the high costs because of the man hours it takes to manage animal health and milk quality in such a scenario. One person can manage around 80 to 100 cows and this is very much dependent on the farmer’s age and he must put in on average 60 to 80 hours a week to cope with such numbers with the work involved.

Scaling up such an enterprise to 800 cows would become uneconomic because of the labour costs because an employee will work only 40 hours — combine that with the high cost of borrowings.

Farming organisations took their eye off the ball by accepting scaling up an enterprise was a way to increase a farmer’s income when clearly it is not.

More damage is being done in co-ops by selling a majority shareholding to PLCs when investors have the majority vote, and they can take profit from such a system and leave the person milking the cows on the ground losing money.

This theory is now well proven by PLCs lagging down the milk price league table. Time has come to stop pushing scale as the answer when clearly it is the family farm that is more efficient. We should now be protecting the family farm model as the way forward for farming.

Michael Flynn



Co Waterford


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