Sean Kilkenny is not a man to mince his words, and his message to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed is simple: get out and meet the real farmers and find out if they are making ends meet.
The pedigree Angus breeder from Ballinagh, just outside Cavan town, believes there is nobody in Agriculture House who has a notion of how hard it is to cope if you are a beef farmer these days.
“The prices haven’t been lower in my experience, and what Minister Creed needs to do is to get his people to encourage live beef exports,” he says.
“There are simply not enough exports, and live exporting is the only way that prices are going to increase.
“At the moment the beef men are working for zero income – that means nothing, and it just can’t go on.”
Sean works off-farm with the HSE, and he reckons that having a second job has become the new norm for farmers throughout the country.
He says this trend should be arrested by the Government and Minister Creed as a matter of urgency if they want to encourage the next generation to continue in farming.
Sean runs a herd of 70 Angus and Charolais crosses at his 25-hectare farm and was preparing seven heifers for sale today at the Duleek mart when we spoke over the weekend.
He was not optimistic about the prices he was likely to receive at the Meath venue.
Apart from the beef prices things have been good this year; there is no fodder crisis in Ballinagh, with two good cuts and some 1,000 small bales of hay already in the sheds.
“We are well in front,” Sean says.
The good weather has also helped with the herd, who were out in the fields up to a fortnight ago when normally they would be in the sheds by October. About a fifth of the herd are still grazing in the fields.
Sean, who is a regional PRO for the Irish Angus Society, is busy preparing for the society’s showcase elite sales in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday week. The show attracts buyers from all over Ireland and Britain.
He is not showing or selling this year, though he says the sale is going from strength to strength with the involvement of commercial organisations like Aldi.
He fondly remembers selling an unusual red Angus bull for over €6,000 at the sale in 2015. Clearly the bull had very strong Celtic genes!
Sean is married to Yvonne, a secondary school teacher in Ballyjamesduff, and they have three children: Pierce (14), Grace (12) and Mary (11). All three are showing a marked interest in farming, although Sean says: “I am not sure I would encourage them into farming when they grow older.” .
Off-farm Sean’s main interest is the GAA, and like all Cavan people he is wondering when, if ever, the county team will come good.
In conversation with Ken Whelan