“We’ve got to the point where we’ve had enough of it. We have three children, but none of them are interested and I wouldn’t blame them.”

Mervyn and Dorothy Fairbrother, from Rathdangan Kiltegan, Co Wicklow, have made a life-changing decision.

Next Wednesday, at lunchtime, their entire dairy herd “from the oldest cow to the youngest calf” will be sold by auction in Carnew Mart. And in May, they will sell their farm.

“The children, Andrew (27), Adam (23) and Wendy (22) have always helped out, at weekends and holidays, but now they are carving out their own career paths.

“So we took the decision that we would sell everything, lock stock and barrel and start a new life,” explains Mervyn. “We are both in our fifties, still young enough to do something else. We’d also like to travel and see a bit of the world.

“We have around 130 cows, farming 156 acres with some ground rented. We’re not big enough to justify employing somebody, so we do all our own work, using contractors for silage, slurry and some fertiliser spreading.”

“Farming is a tie, a pull, you always had work waiting for you when you returned home from an afternoon out,” adds Dorothy.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’ve loved our lives, we’ve always farmed and really enjoyed it, but we now feel we’re ready for a change and a new challenge.”

“I know young people starting out now, and I wish them well, but don’t envy them,” Mervyn says, “with new rules constantly coming down the tracks, you’re very tied down by regulations and constraints, you need to be utterly committed to it”.


Asked if they were not constrained for decades by the milk quota regime, he replies “yes, we were, and a lot of money was invested in renting and buying quota in those days, but things were the same for years on end. Now, the goalposts keep moving all the time.”

“Costs are out of control, compared to the price we’re getting,” Dorothy adds. “Your money’s worth nothing now.”

For the Fairbrothers, it’s clear that this is only the end of a chapter, not their story. “It’s a new beginning,” says Dorothy, “it’s nice to be able to get out on our own terms and in our own time.

“It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time. All I ever wanted to do was farm, but our bodies are tired and it’s time for change.”