A firm believer in the saying that ‘you only get out of an organisation what you put into it’, Pat Keane was recently elected Chairman of the IFA’s Waterford Livestock Committee and he told Irish Tractor & Agri magazine he is looking forward to speaking out on behalf of the county’s Livestock farmers.
The IFA’s National Livestock Committee fully represents the interests of the country’s 100,000 livestock farmers on all issues affecting members incomes and livelihoods.
The Committee undertakes this work at local, national, European and international level constantly analysing complex problems and issues, and proposing policies and solutions geared at meeting the interests of farmers.
The work of the Committee is very wide ranging from high level contacts at European level in meetings with Agricultural or Trade Commissioners on policy issues.
Representing the largest number of farmers nationwide, the IFA National Livestock Committee comprises of 29 democratically elected members from each of the IFA’s County Executives.
Pat Keane, who runs a successful 92 hectare farm at Knockhouse in Portlaw as well as an agricultural contracting business, took over in the chair of the Waterford Committee in January and he is well aware of the challenges that his members face on a day-to-day basis.
Describing his election as a ‘big honour’, Pat has witnessed the domestic beef market turn a corner in recent times. Tighter supplies will make a big difference in 2015 and should swing the balance in favour of the farmers selling cattle.
He believes a strong live export trade is essential to maximise price competition and ensure a balance in cattle supplies relative to market demand in order to optimise prices and avoid the marketing problems which occurred in 2014.
“I have a great interest in livestock having been involved in beef all my life and I will be working towards keeping beef prices going the right way and pushing livestock exports,” he outlined to Irish Tractor magazine.
IFA figures show that in 2014 the live export trade was strong with total volumes of almost 240,000 head, up 27,000 or 13% on 2013 levels. Calf exports were strong with almost 40,000 head to Holland, 22,000 to Belgium and 44,000 to Spain.
The international live trade was also active with almost 18,000 head exported to Libya.
“12 months ago you couldn’t sell a bull but, thankfully, we don’t have that problem now. We had too many cattle in the system which resulted in supply and demand issues.”
He adds a note of caution, however, warning that what happens this spring will have a significant impact for farmers selling cattle in two years’ time.
“The outlook for beef is positive and, hopefully the next 12 months will see a good lift in prices. There’s definitely 150,000 less cattle in the system to kill this year but the biggest fear is that if we don’t get live exports this Spring there will be too many in the system again in 2017 and we’ll be back to square one.”
Feed and input prices is another cause of concern for Pat and his members. “The rising costs of feed, oil and fertiliser, are making life difficult,” Pat – who has also served as chairman of Waterford New Ross Mart since May 2013 – pointed out.
“The cost of oil put us under serious pressure during the last three to four years. We seem to be getting a bit of break this year but getting money in quick enough can also be a challenge along with the cost of repairing machinery repairs and new machinery. You’d have to pay €100,000 for a new tractor these days.”
These are also problems he encounters on a daily basis when running his agricultural contracting business – PJ Keane Contracts.
Available for baling, wrapping, slurry, slurry spreading, hedge cutting and re-seeding, their three Case tractors and modern fleet of machinery are rarely idle and, to ensure customer satisfaction, they always strive to get the job done as quickly as possible.
Their name is synonymous with reliability when it comes to providing a complete service from plough to harvest. Efficiency and reliability are the sound foundations on which PJ Keane Contracts is built.
“You also have to provide your customers with value for money,” Pat added.
With his new role, spare time is a scarce commodity for the affable Keane these days but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Together with his colleagues on the IFA’s Livestock Committee, Pat will roll up his sleeves and leave no stone unturned in his efforts to always get the best deal for livestock farmers.
Chairman Waterford IFA Livestock Committee
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 3 No 3, April 2015