'I might get an honorary PhD in paperwork': Is applying for a grant from the Department worth the hassle?
Compliance, compliance, compliance is the reality of farming in the EU. What annoys me about it the most is that despite all the traceability, Brussels are very quick to import food from all over the world that isn't subjected to the same rigorous on-farm compliance that we are; the mind boggles.
As the year draws to a close I am busy with paperwork, I honestly feel sometimes that I could spend the entire day in the office dealing with compliance. The Herdwatch app that I have is proving really helpful and the more I use it the better I get at it.
I completed all the work for my TAMS fencing and I think it is taking me longer to put together all the paperwork to submit for the grant than it did to put up 2,000 metres of fencing around the farm. I went to the safety course, I've got the receipts and we've dotted the I's and we're now crossing the T's. The work is long paid for but I'm not expecting to see anything in the form of payment for at least six months. Is it worth the hassle?
I've also got to get to a GLAS course. I had no idea that all these courses were necessary for these schemes. I wonder will I get an honorary PhD in farming by the end of the year when I consider all the classes and events I've been to this year and over the years. I won't even mention the dysfunctional KT scheme is that still even going?
On the farm the breeding season is now well and truly over and the rams are now enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation. I pushed the ewes out to dry fields at the extreme ends of the farm where they have access to haylage. I don't intend to house them until after scanning. I usually book the scanner the day I let the rams out, so don't leave it until the last minute to organise this as they are busy people in the new year.
I intend to faecal sample the ewes to see what their situation with worms and fluke is, but having gone through them recently I am very happy with their condition. In fact I am slightly concerned that they might even be too fat, so it's a possibility that they don't need any dose.
The last of my lambs will be gone by Christmas and it's good to see the price is rising. It has been a good year for the sheep business. My lambs did well and the price held up despite the weakness of sterling.
It is my view that the sheep industry in Ireland will continue to go from strength to strength and I hope to see more new entrants to it. The dairy business is tempting for some but I'm staying where I am. The option of contract rearing should become more available to sheep and beef farmers as time goes on. I'd recommend it, as the two can run well together.
It provides a stable income throughout the year and means you are optimising the grassland of your farm. At the same time you are providing much needed feed for the dairy farmers' replacement heifers as he milks more cows.
What I would say about it is, the department and farm organisations need to make this system more user-friendly and reduce the red tape involved as it is seldom that we have a system in farming that can be win-win for both parties.
Well, that's it for another year, I hope I don't sound too grumpy as I am generally 'a glass half-full sort of person'. I like to see progress and I can't stand when things are not working properly. One thing that we can certainly celebrate is that we don't have an election.
That would definitely have cancelled Christmas. It would be nice, however, to see our politicians act as quickly as they did to save their necks, and get busy providing much-needed services such as broadband to rural Ireland which are long, long overdue.
Have a very merry Christmas and I wish everyone all the best for 2018, thanks for reading my articles.
John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath
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