Farm Ireland

Tuesday 16 January 2018

These farming by date regulations are the bane of our lives

Oliver McDonnell

Land thawed out quite quickly after the big freeze and allowed us to get started with slurry spreading. These farming-by-dates regulations are the bane of our lives and really have achieved nothing other than to satisfy those who shout the loudest. Good farming practice includes environmental management and, as farmers, this is what we do. But the old story applies. A few steps out of line so the whole sector must pay the price.

It is good to be back out working on the land again. Farmyard manure and slurry is being spread on stubble ground that is targeted for spring crops. Two extra green fields will also be ploughed up in spring. One of these will have slurry spread on it and the other will have manure applied.

We have a major problem with our slurry tower at the moment, thereby rendering it impossible to suck slurry out through the outlet, which appears to be blocked in some way from the inside. Try as we might we cannot release it. It doesn't seem to be a problem which may have arisen through lack of use over the past months because it was working normally for a while and we had filled the tanker a few times before it stopped. This blockage now means that we are obliged to suck the slurry out of this tower from the top. We will have to continue doing so until the store is completely empty. More than likely this will present a growing problem as the amount of slurry inside the store falls and becomes harder to reach with the extension pipes.

However, the tower will have to be emptied as much as is physically possible before we can tackle the problem with any degree of safety. We have never experienced a blockage like this before, but it is likely that we will have to get into the tower to solve the problem. Needless to say it is a job that none of us are looking forward to and, indeed, I would be glad to hear if anyone has any suggestions as to how we might go about removing this blockage.

Our recent herd test was clear and cattle are performing well at the moment. We are still experiencing water problems in one part of the cattle shed, which was in trouble during the freezing weather, and trying to sort this has taken up time. The whole system had to be dismantled bit by bit as we tried to get water flowing, and we were dismayed to note the amounts of silt and iron which flowed out with the water. We now think the remaining water pipe must be totally blocked and it would probably be more time efficient to replace the pipe completely. It is a job for once the cattle shed is empty so, for now, the cattle must share the drinkers at the other end of the shed.

Drainage work is ongoing on the home farm. Owen is in with his digger releasing the floods which have been lying on the land since early November. A few drains have been dug through part of one paddock, which has been badly affected, and these are leading to an existing main drain. It was amazing how quickly the water drained away. It disappeared almost as quickly as Owen dug the new drains. These new drains will be filled with stones in the coming days, and then covered again with the top soil.

Another paddock, half of which is dipped into a hollow, contained a flood which could easily be mistaken for a large pond. In fact, half a dozen ducks arrived here a couple of weeks ago and took up residence. The only option here was to dig a large soakhole, which will also be filled in with stones. The water is draining more slowly here, but at least it is draining away and the ducks have gone back to their original home.

The third problem area on the home farm has also been resolved. A flood had extended into a field from a main drain, over which a bridge had collapsed and caused a blockage. This blockage has now been cleared. It was impossible to correct this situation before now without doing damage to the fields.

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As it stands, the lads have quite a bit of ploughing and re-seeding to do this spring to bring the paddocks back into effective production. Laurence, too, has some similar problems, so Owen has left to sort it out.

After reading some articles in the farming press on the possible damage to tillage crops as a result of the freezing weather, it was with some trepidation that I went on an inspection trail. I would be hesitant to make any decisions as to the health of the crops as it is early days, but to me the winter barley and wheat crops look OK. The wheat crop was sown fairly late but it is a good survivor and I would be hopeful that it has survived these past tough few months.

Irish Independent