Slurry build-up is now close to breaking point on farms

Slats heading for overflow situation as 'brutal' conditions ground farm contractors

Atrocious weather is hampering slurry spreading
Atrocious weather is hampering slurry spreading

Louise Hogan and Claire Fox

Contractors are battling atrocious weather this week to get slurry spread for hard-pressed farmers.

Poor ground conditions has severely hampered progress and many contractors and farmers said they were just getting enough moved to keep slurry under the slats and away from housed stock.

Neilus O'Connor from Moyvane in north Kerry said he was just getting out a load here and there for farmers.

He said that most low-lying and heavy land in the area was saturated, and close to two-thirds of farmers had slurry tanks that were close to full.

"The bad fall was the real cause of the problem. Farmers just couldn't get out to empty tanks, and cattle have been housed here since the Listowel Races in the middle of September."

It was a similar story from David Cullen, a contractor based at Doocastle on the Sligo-Mayo border. He has spread the odd load for farmers where they have a high and dry field.

Mr Cullen said the recent bad weather had compounded the problems which have been building since last autumn.

He added that a good cold and dry January would have allowed farmers to empty their tanks over the last fortnight. However, the continuing wet weather was making a bad situation a lot worse.

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Roscommon contractor John Kennedy said that farmers were just about getting enough spread to keep the situation under control. However, he said the problems varied from place to place.

"We are not bad around here, the land is generally dry," the Ballyforan-based contractor said.

However, Mr Kennedy said farmers working heavy ground were in serious trouble.

The slurry difficulties are not confined to the west. Marcus Fenton of Fenton Agri Ltd in Donard on the Wicklow-Kildare border described ground conditions as "brutal".

Mr Fenton said land that was poached by cattle in the autumn was particularly bad. Ground with a good grass cover was generally much better, he added.

Even so, he said he used the umbilical system on the vast majority of recent jobs, while his tankers have only been used on three occasions since the season opened.

'Calendar farming'

Farmer and contractor representatives said the current difficulties highlighted the ridiculous nature of calendar farming.

Michael Moroney of Farm Contractors of Ireland (FCI) said there was a dry week or 10 days in November when contractors could have moved ample volumes of slurry to prevent the current crisis.

EU regulations that prevent slurry spreading in November and December meant farmers and contractors were now under serious and needless pressure, Mr Moroney said.

Denis Drennan of ICMSA said the slurry issue illustrated the need for more "practicality and common sense" in the framing of regulations. "It shows the practical issues that are out there on the ground and it needs to be addressed in future years," he said.

Michael Fitzmaurice TD said it shows that calendar farming does not work. "There was far more suitable weather last November than there is now. We also need to recognise that Ireland has a different climate to most of mainland Europe."

Parts of the west were hit by extremely heavy rainfall over the weekend. This week is forecast to be changeable and cold.

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