Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 25 March 2019

'We are getting very mixed messages on climate action'

 

Buyers gather ringside at Roscrea Mart last week. Photo: Kevin Byrne Photography
Buyers gather ringside at Roscrea Mart last week. Photo: Kevin Byrne Photography
Action at Roscrea Mart last week. Photo: Kevin Byrne Photography
Con Howard
Michael Harty
Noreen Farrell
Richard Davis
Shane Quigley
Cian Rigney

Storm Powell

Storm Powell travelled to Roscrea Mart to hear farmers' opinions on beef prices, climate change and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit

Action at ­ Roscrea Mart last week. Kevin Byrne ­Photography

Con Howard

Ballintotty, Nenagh

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Con Howard

"Beef farming is not viable at current prices", says Con (77), who farms 380ac with his son Tim. "It has been a non-profit making enterprise for the last three years."

The present grading system of cattle is Con's biggest concern and he would like to see it reviewed.

On climate action, the dairy and beef farmer says: "Nature sets its own controls. The Government should look at the carbon emissions caused by air and sea travel. Don't blame the farmers for everything."

With regard to meat consumption, he says: "Do everything in moderation."

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Con believes the UK will look for an extension to the Brexit deadline of March 29. "There may be another vote or a general election."

Shane Quigley

Portroe, Nenagh

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Shane Quigley

Dairy farmer Shane milks 40 cows on 80ac in Castlelough, where he lives with his wife and two young children. He also does farm contract work. Though dairying now, Shane previously had sucklers "but got out of them two years ago due to low margins".

On farm emissions, he comments: "Our advisors are promoting dairy expansion but climate experts denounce its high carbon footprint. We get mixed messages and it's hard to know what to do." On a practical note, Shane suggests greater use of solar power on farms and would welcome further incentives for this.

"The UK will be in serious trouble if there is a no-deal Brexit," says Shane. "At the moment, the prospects are bad, but hopefully a deal will be done in time."

Cian Rigney

Roscrea

Cian (23) s a third generation calf and weanling dealer.

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Cian Rigney

"There's a vibrant trade for calves and weanlings at the moment" says Cian, who spends his days travelling to marts nationwide. "It's hard to understand the high prices and hard to buy value.

"If the Government are serious about reducing the farmers' carbon footprint, they could provide incentives to reduce herd size," says Cian, who also suggests the introduction of schemes to promote bioenergy.

On Brexit, Cian says: "There is a lot scaremongering. The UK is trying to play hard ball. They will have exhausted every route before they agree on a deal at the 11th hour. A no-deal Brexit isn't good for any of us."

Michael Harty

Lismore,Toomevara

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Michael Harty

"Beef farming is not viable at current prices," says Michael, who was appointed CEO of co-operative marts group, Central Auctions (Roscrea, Nenagh and Birr) in 2017, and is also a dry stock farmer.

"Beef farming is becoming big business and very specialised," says Michael. "The traditional farmer who bought stores in October, fed them and sold them in spring no longer has a profit margin. Most of them need an off-farm income. There is also a reduction in the quality of the suckler herd, which is a major concern."

Michael fears that the expansion of the dairy industry is happening too quickly and is aware of its increasing carbon footprint. "We must look at our use of fertiliser and, where possible, carry out low-emission slurry spreading," he says.

"The uncertainty of Brexit is frightening," adds Michael "and there is so much at stake. A no-deal Brexit doesn't bear thinking of. We must have something in place before March 29. The UK is not as cognisant of the farmer vote as we are. Tariffs or price reductions for Irish beef would be a disaster."

Noreen Farrell

Ballinveney, Toomevara

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Noreen Farrell

Noreen lives on a dry stock and sheep farm with her husband and four children. Her job as a carer supplements the farm income.

"Beef farming is just about viable," says Noreen, "and we plan to stick with it. The family have been in sucklers for generations and the whole family have a huge interest in the farm and love it. Subsidies, admittedly, are a great help."

On the climate, Noreen says: "Electric cars will come but not for the older generation. Pollution needs to be contained, slurry spread efficiently and household waste disposed of correctly."

Noreen is confident that a Brexit deal will be brokered at the last minute. "If not, there will be a huge impact on the farming community," she adds.

Richard Davis

Knock, Roscrea

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Richard Davis

Richard has both a dairy and beef enterprise. "Beef farming is definitely not viable at present. Stores prices are too dear," says Richard.

"A lot of commentators are blaming the farming industry for high carbon emissions. What about the aviation industry?" asks Richard, who farms 120ac. "Our age group find it difficult to get our heads around the issue of climate change. I don't know how we can reduce emissions. Cars will be adapted in time, but what about lorries? How will they run? Injecting slurry has been encouraged, but will this imply an added farm cost?"

"If the UK crash out with a no-deal Brexit, there will be very serious consequences and beef prices will be seriously affected. The uncertainty has already affected people negatively. I'm hoping that there will be a settlement. But if the time is extended for longer than a month, chaos will continue to the detriment of everyone."

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