Amanda Monahan, Ciara Gilsenan and Eimear Gilsenan from Ramor Macra at the Macra na Feirme Capers in Stradone.

‘It’s hard to know where the future will be for smaller farmers’

The world of farming has changed considerably since Ballyjamesduff woman Amanda Monahan entered the industry.

Amanda will be familiar to many farmers through her work in Ballyjamesduff Mart, but she also runs a farm enterprise alongside her father.

She studied Agriculture at UCD specialising in Animal Science, graduating in 2007.

“My course was the second biggest there at the time, with Animal and Crop Production being the biggest, while engineering and environmental courses were much smaller,” Amanda says.

However, this has changed in the intervening time.

“Now there is much more focus on the environmental aspect of farming in college. This reflects the changing nature of the industry.

“There are a lot more regulations in the sector, and while younger generations seem willing to step forward to help meet these, some older farmers are not as aware.”

She also feels that new nitrates rules for farmers are a blow as they run contrary to advice given to farmers less than a decade ago.

“The new regulations that are causing farmers to reduce stock numbers are a big disadvantage. We were told to increase our stock and now we’re being told to get rid of them.

“A lot of farmers rushed into building up herds, took out loans, etc. and so I don’t know how financially viable it is for them to cut back numbers.

“It won’t impact us much because we didn’t expand much, but in the north and midlands, it will be a huge disadvantage to farmers going forward.”

Amanda believes a more balanced view is needed when it comes to environmental restrictions, with all industrial sectors shouldering equal responsibility.

“There is a lot of focus on agriculture, we need to look more at other areas, with every sector doing its bit to meet targets. Farmers also need more education on how to be more sustainable with things like hedgerows and fertiliser spreading etc.”

After finishing her college education Amanda spent a few years working on farms in Australia before returning home to the farm where she works alongside her father Patrick.

“Seven years ago I started a partnership with my father.

“We’re split between dairy, sucklers, and dry stock, because our land is fragmented land.

“We keep the calves as replacements either selling the calves in the local mart or sending them to the factory as two years olds, or under 30 months.

“Dairy cows are easier to handle whereas with dry stock you need help, but it’s hard to know where the future will be for smaller farmers in the dairy industry.”

Amanda enjoys working alongside Patrick and she says it’s good to have a wise head to give advice.

“We get on well and if we have a difference of opinion we eventually come to an agreement. He spent his life on the farm so I learned a lot from him. It’s great to get his perspective on things.”

On top of working on the farm, Amanda also juggles a day job and family life.

“Myself and my husband Conor had a baby girl Ava, who is nine months old.

“I work in Ballyjamesduff Mart part-time in the office staff as a clerk for livestock and machinery auctions. Before Ava, I worked three or four days a week, but now I work two days.

“It’s not easy balancing family life but we have plenty of help, I have five sisters, both sets of grandparents are nearby and Conor has a sister who lives close to us with a few more abroad.

“My sister Suzanne stepped in and helped on the farm when I had Ava and was out of action. She helped out with things like milking and foddering.

“It’s like the old saying, it takes a village to raise a child.”