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Independent.ie

Friday 9 December 2016

The new year presents an opportunity for the IFA to reinvent itself

Robin Talbot

Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30

Michael Harrrington, Castletownbere, Co Cork, tagging his Scotch sheep at Kenmare Mart Ram lamb Sale on Monday. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan
Michael Harrrington, Castletownbere, Co Cork, tagging his Scotch sheep at Kenmare Mart Ram lamb Sale on Monday. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

The start of the year is a good time to take stock. From a farmers point of view, it is hard to look past the fiasco that is the IFA at the moment.

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I suppose we have to ask ourselves the question - how did it all go so wrong? But when you look at it with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps its not so surprising.

Less than a year ago the organisation celebrated 60 years in existence with an event that was so opulent that it was almost vulgar because it was so detached from the normality of the majority of the lives of its 85,000 members.

When the proverbial hit the fan, I, like a lot of farmers, attended the local meetings that were organised to keep us informed at what was going on. I have often attended farmers meetings where there was anger about particular issues, whether it was beef prices, milk prices or grain prices but I never remember attending a meeting where there was such venom in the anger.

I would think that was because the sense of betrayal is bad enough but the fact that we feel we have been betrayed by our own cuts to the very bone.

But the one thing that I am certain of is that we need a strong organisation to represent farmers and it's certainly going to be a major task, which certainly won't be done in the short-term, to rebuild IFA.

If IFA is to have any hope of restoring farmer confidence, the first thing that has to happen is that the elected members need to pull together for the good of farmers, put aside, even for a while, all the political jockeying for positions that goes on in IFA.

All members also need to read the Lucey report. Some people in the organisation did do their job. For me, one of the most disappointing things that came out of the report is that national council was passive.

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Fat covers

Meanwhile, we continue to slaughter our under-16 month bulls on a weekly basis. Around 75pc of them are gone at this stage and I expect we will finish up with an average carcase weight somewhere between 390-400kg.

We are pleasantly surprised with the fat covers. The majority are getting into a fat score of 3.

We are drafting the bulls by age and, unlike other years, we haven't had to leave any bulls behind because of poor fat cover.

The only two significant changes we have made from other years is that we started to feed the bulls two weeks earlier and we have less maize meal but more oats in the diet. The price is the only quibble.

When all the bulls are sold, we will do out the final weights and grades. Hopefully we will be able to replicate that performance next time.

The other area of concern at the moment is that one of the young bulls showed up with suspected TB lesions in the factory. So fingers crossed the result will come back negative.

We had this issue before and it actually came back as some scar tissue from having pneumonia as a calf.

On the cows, it is getting near decision time for removing the stock bulls. My feeling is that we will take them away this coming week. Everything seems pretty quiet on the breeding front. The bulls have been in for 10 weeks and have been rotated between the groups of cows.

The only cows bulling at the moment are the ones that are being culled which suggests to me that most of the rest of them are gone in calf.

We removed the bulls from the maiden heifers a few weeks ago. We only run the bulls with the heifers for eight weeks. If a heifer doesn't go in calf in eight weeks, she is probably not going to go in calf anyway so, after scanning the heifers, anything not in calf will be fattened.

One of the advantages of selling the beef bulls at under 16 months is that, when the stock bulls are removed, we have empty pens in the slatted house to put them into.

Since we have three young stock bulls this year, it is important that they get a chance to recharge their batteries.

Looking at our feed supplies for the remainder of the winter, we would be hoping for a reasonably early spring. While we have adequate supplies of straw and grain, our silage is disappearing quite quickly.

We will monitor our silage use on a regular basis and tweak our diets if necessary.

Robin Talbot farms in partnership with his mother Pam and wife Ann in Ballacolla, Co. Laois.

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