Opinion: Are county councils passing responsibility for road safety onto farmers?

Members of the Irish Defence Forces clearing fallen trees at Burke’s Hill in Cork. Photo: Mark Condren
Members of the Irish Defence Forces clearing fallen trees at Burke’s Hill in Cork. Photo: Mark Condren
Large storm surges hit the South pier and beach during hurricane Ophelia in Arklow, Co Wicklow
John Fagan

John Fagan

We survived Storm Ophelia and thankfully we weren't too badly hit.

I was really saddened about the death of three people in accidents involving trees during the storm.

I think that there has to be more joined up thinking between the farm organisations, farmers and local authorities about issues with roadside trees.

I recently received a letter from the Westmeath County Council telling me to 'lop down trees' and do all sorts of massive excavations along the roadside to remove trees in order to improve public safety.

To be honest I don't think this approach is going solve the problem.

I have no problem taking down trees or hedgecutting. We do it every year without fail,

What I do have a problem with is the council passing responsibility for road safety to farmers throughout the country and diverting the costs of this away from themselves.

Road safety is not the sole responsibility of farmers.

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Councils have to take a more proactive role than just sending out letters.

With extreme weather events becoming the norm rather than the exception, the way forward is a collective approach involving farmers, local authorities and qualified tree surgeons with insurance, the skills and training required to remove dangerous roadside trees at a reasonable cost.

Putting the onus on people who lack the skills, equipment and resources to tackle the problem won't save lives - it just kicks the can down the road.

Generally speaking, it is a quiet time of year for most farms as we head into the winter months.

For me, at this time of year, it's time for insurance renewals, book work and fixing up a few bills.

Insurance, as always is a necessary evil and premiums certainly aren't going down.

It would be great if the costs of doing business were kept in line with the costs of production.

Sadly, the reality of treadmill farming is that we have to run faster to stay in the same place.

On the farm

The breeding season is in full swing and I have been busy housing stock and closing up the farm in preparation for winter.

The rams are busy, and I've come to the conclusion that physical fitness is as important as good condition

Rams can be overweight, and an over-fed ram, I've noticed, generally gives trouble.

Keep them fit, healthy and in shape and they should manage 60-70 ewes.

The grass covers on the farm are excellent and I'm gradually closing off fields in order to leave the place ready for lambing in the spring time.

This is as essential as putting diesel in the tank.

You won't manage your stock, be it sheep or cattle, unless you have a policy whereby fields identified for use in early spring are now closed off.

Nearly all this year's lambs are gone, just 41 left. The stragglers and a few pets remain.

It has been a good year for lamb thrive and it's good to see the price is holding well and it seems like it has bottomed out.

As soon as the breeding season is over I'll be looking to house the sheep and give the whole farm a break as well as myself coming into Christmas.

We all need to recharge the batteries coming into spring 2018.

John Fagan farms at Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

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