Storm Powell travelled to Delvin Mart last week to get farmers' views on the IFA suckler campaign, distribution of forestry plantations and the fodder situation ahead of this winter.
Lismacaffrey, Co Westmeath
Sean McNamara is a dry stock and sheep farmer who farms 400ac of which 150ac is leased. "We have 900 ewes and 200 dry stock," says Sean
"I don't think farmers will get the suckler subsidy they are hoping for, but I hope I'm wrong. The Minister won't give €200 per cow. Unless something is done, suckler cows will disappear.
"Forestry should be focussed on the western counties" says Sean. "There is no sense planting trees on good land here and farming land in the west which is better suited to forestry. Fencing of plantations should be compulsory. Badgers and vermin cause damage to stock and pine martens are killing lambs."
Sean has sufficient fodder for this winter. "I bought a lot last autumn to ensure we have enough," he says.
Trim, Co Meath
Well-known auctioneer, Thomas Potterton who owns Delvin Mart, also farms extensively with his brother Gerald near Trim, Co Meath. Beef and tillage are their main focus.
Thomas is supportive of the IFA campaign. "The IFA is a strong body who deserve support for whatever they can do.
"I like trees," adds Thomas who has 35 acres of forestry "but I don't agree with planting top-quality land. Crops and grass are more lucrative. Forestry plantation is better suited to marginal lands in the west than being evenly distributed to each county. It's attractive from a tax point of view and, certainly, a good alternative use of suitable land.
"The environmental impact of forestry is important," adds Thomas, who recalls the day when farmers could reclaim land, burn the bushes, add an old tyre or two and a five-gallon drum of diesel to the fire. "We've come a long way," says Thomas, who encourages biodiversity wherever possible.
Thomas does not anticipate a difficulty with fodder. "Our first cut was very light, but we had a good second cut so we have as much silage as in other years."
Other areas were worse affected by the drought and he has seen a huge demand for straw and silage. Philosophically, Thomas says: "Nature adjusts itself, cattle are still out in the fields at this late stage and hopefully we will have a good spring."
Athboy, Co Meath
Sixty-eight year-old Paddy Miggin farms suckler cows on 170ac at Dressouge, near Athboy.
He supports the suckler campaign but is not very optimistic. "If I get it, I'll take it," says Paddy, "but I will leave it to the younger people to campaign. We may get another €60, but that is hardly worth the trouble or the paperwork involved.
"Forestry should be planted everywhere including corners of fields. There is marginal land throughout so it shouldn't be confined to the west," says Paddy.
He acknowledges that trees help the environment. "But there is no coordinated approach to the challenges of global warming. Environmentalists tell us to get rid of cows and Teagasc are advising heavier stocking rates. Every farmer could plant 1,000 trees to offset the emissions from livestock," he says.
With regard to fodder, Paddy says: "It will depend on how long the winter lasts. I have just about enough. I have bought some straw."
Gaybrook, Co Westmeath
Ivor Smullen lives at Winetown, Gaybrook, near Mullingar, where he farms 150ac comprising 58 sucklers and 200 ewes.
He supports the suckler campaign, but asks "Will it be got? I would like to see the IFA more active in their campaign. The €40 given in the budget is not enough. It should have been more like €100 or €140 per cow."
Ivor favours planting forestry in the west. "Planting good land is a bad idea. More money is made by farming the land. If farmers were getting more for what they are producing, it would encourage younger farmers to stay on the land."
His fodder situation is not too bad for the winter. "The second cut in August made up for the first cut," he says.
Enfield, Co Meath
Twenty-three-year-old Martin Daly is a beef, and sheep farmer. Following two years at Gurteen College, he returned home and farms 120ac with father Pat at Clonard, Enfield. Martin also works part-time for a tillage farmer.
Martin supports the IFA campaign. "Without the suckler man, there will be no continental cattle left. It's unbelievable how many farmers have got out of suckling in the last two years. The recent €40 subsidy has been a help. We mightn't get €200 but €150 would be great."
On the forestry plantations, Martin feels the focus should be on the marginal lands in the west. "It's a shame to put good land into forestry," he says, "though it might work for marginal lands in this area that are not suited to other alternatives.
"Our fodder situation is not great as, due to the dry year, we grazed some of the silage ground and only have a half of what we normally have. We have bought 100 bales of silage at €35 a bale. We still have 90pc of the cattle out on grass and the rest are on wheaten straw and meal to hold on to the silage."