Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Grounds grazed late showing poor grass growth

John Heney

Travelling by train is a great way to see our rural landscape. Returning by train from Cork earlier this month, I got a bird's eye view of the positive effect that a few weeks of fine weather had on our countryside.

The signs of flooding which has plagued us over the last nine months were beginning to reduce.

One could have been forgiven for thinking that a giant slurry spreader had been at work with nearly every second field on view covered with slurry.

Back home, the spell of fine February weather allowed me to get some lime spread. I was amazed at how well the land stood up to the tractors and spreaders, even areas which had barely dried out showed little signs of damage.

I am planning to have the cattle grazing these sections of my farm treated with copper soon after they are left out as I found that the cattle I treated with copper last year did very well.

Unfortunately the weather in the meantime has taken another turn for the worse. Initially the softer weather and light rain gave a good increase in grass growth, especially where slurry had been spread.

However, the subsequent sudden drop in temperature meant that normal service was resumed.

The confidence I felt last January about having a sufficient supply of silage is dwindling. At the moment, it looks like it will come right down to the wire.

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I'm also very disappointed with growth so far this year. Fields that had been stopped early are doing OK. However, it appears that I am now paying the price for delaying bringing my cattle in last backend as the fields that were grazed late are showing very disappointing growth.

I suppose we tend to forget that it's still March and the real growth doesn't really start until we get into April.

I must confess that I found RTE's Prime Time debate on CAP reform to be most disturbing.

What I saw was a group of totally divided farmers, unashamedly fighting with one another for a seat in an EU-funded agricultural lifeboat.

They don't appear to realise that what they are actually being offered is little more than a chair on the deck of a stricken ship.

A cocktail of vested interests, which includes politicians at both a national and farming level, along with agri-food sector representatives has succeeded in clouding the reality of an industry in crisis.

Year after year, income figures published in the Teagasc national farm survey reveal disgracefully low incomes levels, even when EU payments are included.

What we now have is an industry relying almost totally on off-farm income to survive.

The disturbing reality is that any young man currently thinking of taking up cattle farming as a career must first secure a good off-farm job or, failing that, acquire a wife with a good salary.

Unfortunately, we never hear of the vital contribution which the salaries of these young women make to ensure the survival of many Irish farm families.

Anyway, back to my own farm. After a recent unannounced visit by ESB Networks, I found that an unsightly pole-mounted apparatus complete with its own communication aerial has been erected on the highest and most prominent part of my farm.

I find it most disappointing that a semi-state body such as the ESB, in total contravention of their own 'code of practice', would inflict such an eyesore on our landscape without any form of consultation.

John Heney farms at Kilfeacle, Co Tipperary. Email

Irish Independent