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Newmarket-on-Fergus farmer Joe Melody begins his column with The Clare Echo giving an insight into life on the farm.

As we head from autumn into winter and embrace all the change that comes with it, its my great honour to begin my new role writing about my passion and my way of life, farming.

I farm in partnership with my father J.J. in Bunratty, our family have farmed here for four generations. Nowadays dairying is our main farm enterprise, we have grown the herd from 50 cows to 140 cows milking today with 180 cows due to calve here next spring.

We also run a pedigree herd of cattle comprising of Charolais, Limousin and Hereford breeds. Pedigree cattle while not our main enterprise now have been a big part of our farming system for generations, we attended many shows every year exhibiting our stock as well as bringing them forward for sales up and down the country.

In recent years it was decided to make dairying our central enterprise as it was for our farm the most efficient and scaleable business to convert our greatest resource the grass we grow into a viable family business. The past 10 years in particular have been a story of dairy expansion and ours is a microcosm of what has been done nationally since the abolition of quotas.

Nowadays the word sustainability is thrown around willy nilly but to us any change or tweak to our farming system has to be sustainable under three types of sustainability. The first one is in terms of its impact on the person who operates the system, secondly does this system add financially to the business and finally of course does it affect the environment in a neutral way at minimum but preferably in a positive way. In medicine the guiding priority is to do good or do no harm, Agriculture is no different. The type of farming that has kept Clare’s landscape green and lush for millenia has always added to the local economy as well as being in harmony with the county’s vibrant ecosystems.

It is my hope that through my weekly contributions to The Clare Echo, I will be able to share with you an insight into our on-farm happenings along with discussing the challenges of the day facing our industry. Clare has a proud tradition of agriculture across its beautiful but varying landscape whether it be the quality store cattle that graze the highlands of the Burren to the large grass based dairy herds that occupy the extremities of Loop Head in the west. Agriculture may have had a proud past in the county but I believe its future will be even brighter.

As a nation we are facing challenges we could not have foreseen a year ago emanating from COVID-19, we know that our health service is our last line of defence but we should also know that our farmers are our first line of defence against illness through the high quality nutrient dense food they produce. Never more has the task been more great ahead of us as a country in protecting our health and keeping our nation strong financially, on both counts our farmers are up to the challenge.

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