Farmers risk burning out, says McGuinness

Mairead McGuinness.
Mairead McGuinness.
John Downing

John Downing

Workloads on farms are taking a heavy toll on farmers and up to one in seven is at risk of "burnout", European MEP Mairead McGuinness has warned.

The Fine Gael politician, seeking re-election to the Midlands-North-West constituency, said the workload on farms could not be sustained. She said the focus on numbers and yields failed to take account of labour issues facing farmers, especially in dairy.

Expansion of dairy farms came as a result of the elimination of milk quotas in 2015.

"It was encouraged by dairy processors keen to meet rising demand for dairy products globally and farmers have responded," she said.

"Today, dairy farming is the most profitable enterprise, so it's no surprise that some dry stock and tillage farmers have made the move."

But dairying is now a round-the-clock seven-day business, especially during calving and silage making. There is little opportunity for a break where the farmer is the sole operator.

"I'm aware of and concerned about the overall health and well-being of farmers, especially those operating on their own," she said.

"The race for numbers is leading to unhealthy competition about numbers of cows, with farmers putting pressure on themselves to compete.

"Burnout is impacting on 15pc of New Zealand farmers, I expect it is at the same or higher levels here."

Irish Independent