Farm Ireland

Wednesday 22 November 2017

New regime needed to replace the stress of penalties system


FIELD TRIP: A group of 46 Irish farmer s from all over the country visited a number of farms in northern France recently. The trip was organised by Keenans in France
FIELD TRIP: A group of 46 Irish farmer s from all over the country visited a number of farms in northern France recently. The trip was organised by Keenans in France
John Fagan

John Fagan

I had my Bord Bia inspection, which went really well. The letter they sent out in advance of the inspection highlighted areas that I needed to attend to and was very helpful. Now that I can see the benefits in terms of getting paid for being quality assured, my initial scepticism of the whole process has eased.

I used to think that there was a lot of unnecessary duplication in the process, but the fact that they give you over a month's notice for the inspection makes a lot of sense.

If you pass your Bord Bia inspection, generally speaking, you should have very little to worry about should you get a Department of Agriculture inspection.

By comparison, I think that the system of penalites as used by the Department is not constructive and unfair. Neither the farmer nor the Department inspector, as far as I can see, wants to put a farmer through the stress of incurring a penalty and I really hope that a new regime, such as the card system being mooted by the IFA, can be brought in.

Also, it would be helpful to know what penalties are the most common and perhaps the Department could issue the top 10 'big ones' that people fall down on.

I dosed all my ewes with Endofluke, which has a 56-day withdrawal date and covers all stages of the life cycle of the fluke. Although no fluke has come up in my lambs, I don't like to take chances and I find it is safer to dose them.

The remaining lambs are coming fit and I could have the majority of them gone by Christmas. However, I am not too inclined to give them away either. I'm going to wait until the price gets to €5/kg and if it means waiting till after Christmas, I will.

The overall grass situation on the farm is excellent. I have nearly 50pc of the farm closed off for next spring since the end of October and I will manage to get my ewes into the new year before I have to house them post scanning.

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I was contemplating keeping them out longer- I suppose the memory of last winter left me with a phobia of housing stock- but it will be good to let the whole farm take a break in January and February. As soon as I house the ewes, I will vaccinate them with Covexin 8.

As this is my last article for 2013, I would like to take a look back on the positves and negatives of my farming year. We all know what every farmer went through in 2012 and in the spring of 2013. For me, this was a massive negative. The only consolation was that we were generally powerless to do anything about it.

However, I think that what it did do was hightlight a lot of things that I was doing wrong. I had too much stock to handle on my own, with just casual labour, and also for the farm to cope with.

The infrastructure on my farm and my management capabilities are not ready for a stocking rate of 10-12 ewes/ha and I am not sure that I want it to be after last year. I've reduced stock now and things are much smoother.

Also, another mistake was letting the rams out in different stages in 2012. What might have seemed like a good idea at the time, ultimately meant that lambing dragged on for too long and 'lambing fatigue' set in. Six weeks is long enough for any lambing season, a mistake I would not like to make again.

On a positive note, probably the most important thing that I did this year was last January, when I took a whole farm soil sample.

It was crucial for me in addressing soil fertility and with the information that I got from it, I was able to adjust my fertiliser applications to the fields that needed it most.

The benefits, although they were slow to come, eventually showed up when grass growth finally kicked off. It has left my farm in a very manageable situation.

I might have had to spend a bit more on fertiliser in the short term, but in the long run I have saved much much more by virtue of the fact that I have reduced costs such as labour, feed and fuel, which inevitably rocket when you don't have grass.

The land drainage also was a massive plus. I drained 65ac of the farm. I had been getting away with this for a number of years, but I was so fed up with this part of the farm during the miserable 18 months that preceded this summer and I decided that, even if it broke me, I would drain these fields.

We have to remember that the land we use is our most expensive asset, profitable farming cannot take place on waterlogged fields. I am delighted with this drainage and it was money well spent.

Overall, there are a lot more positives than negatives to take out of 2013 and I would just like to wish all my readers a really Happy Christmas and peaceful, prosperous and safe farming year in 2014.

* John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath. Email:

Irish Independent