John Fagan: 'Farmers must be allowed expand into energy production'
Winter is coming, or it has arrived depending on what part of the country that you are in. In fairness, it has been a lot easier than last year and is a welcome relief to both livestock and farmers as housing has been delayed significantly compared to other years.
However, as tempting as it might seem, you still need to clear fields that you intend to use in the spring for lambing. A week of extra grazing in winter, I've heard the older generation remark, could cost you a month grazing in spring time, so don't be complacent and rest on your laurels too much. Aim to have 90pc of your farm closed up by mid-December.
My lambs are slowly but surely coming fit. They have ad lib access to meal and I intend to draft them off as quickly as possible. They are within touching distance of being fit so the meal literally tops them off relatively cheaply. It's good to get them away. When I think back to what I went through bringing them into the world, it literally sends a shiver down my spine. Nevertheless, time passes through the roughest hours.
Lamb price is gradually drifting up in the right direction but it is, as always, about €1 per kilo off where it should be in order for farmers to make a living from commercial sheep farming. It's at this point in the year when things are relatively quiet on the farm that you have time to reflect on where you are going with your business.
The tax man has his fun, the insurance premiums inevitably go up, as does pretty much the cost of everything we do, but the cost of the product we produce is continually pushed down and we have to wait for the subsidies to arrive to compensate us for keeping the price of food low. The candle is being burnt at both ends for sheep farmers.
I tipped down to Kilkenny to see the energy expo last month, and what an eye-opener it was. The potential for farmers to generate their own energy needs is massive. It's only a matter of time before every farm in the country will be energy contributors rather than energy users.
If they are allowed to, that is. They've been at this on the continent for the last number of years.
A German friend of mine remarked when I was talking about this, that in Germany, instead of getting a bill every two months for electricity, they get a cheque for the energy that the solar panels on the roof of their house generates for the grid.