Floods, snow, drought, fodder crisis and Liam MacCarthy: 2018 won’t be forgotten by Limerick farmers

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Email:

donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

Floods, snow, drought, fodder crisis and Liam MacCarthy: 2018 won’t be forgotten by Limerick farmers

Drought: Ger Murnane with his kids Garrett, Cormac, Eoghan, Saoirse

WHERE to start? Brian Ryan, of Mulcair Veterinary, put it best when he said “all we were missing was a plague of locusts”.

Land went from being saturated to bone dry in the space of a couple of months. Farmers just out of a fodder crisis were back feeding precious first cut silage in June. They went from trying to keep water flowing in sub-zero temperatures to keeping water flowing when temperatures hit over 30 degrees. There were fodder crisis meetings in April and then again in July. It got stranger off the farm with a farmer being prosecuted for permitting cow dung to be left on the road, while another was refused permission twice to erect a gate and build a new entrance.

Teagasc economists estimate that average farm income in 2018 fell by 15% compared to 2017. On the typical dairy farm feed expenditure is estimated to have increased by about 50%. Dairy farm income fell on average by 22% while beef men’s backs continue to be up against the wall. Thank God for the Limerick hurlers who lifted spirits throughout the summer culminating in that glorious Sunday in August. It has shortened the winter. Let’s hope for a normal 2019. Wishing all our readers a happy and better new year.

January

A new trend of farmers sharing photos of cows and newly-born calves, and in some cases ‘selfies’ of the farmer with the animals was criticised by Limerick ICMSA.

“I’m constantly amazed at how careless people can be - everyone must know that an animal after giving birth is a very different animal to the one you might have thought you knew well. Certainly, whatever about dairy cows, I would always tell people to be very wary indeed and very careful around suckler cows with calves,” said Limerick ICMSA chairman, Tom Blackburn

Chairman of Limerick and Clare Milk Producers, Michael O’Connor said into the future a lot of suppliers are questioning the wisdom of calving cows for the winter. “Some of the biggest suppliers have already switched to spring calving. Probably a lot more will follow,” said Mr O’Connor at their annual dinner dance.

Farmers in east Limerick bore the brunt of teeming rain on Sunday when the Mulcair burst its banks in many places and hundreds of acres, if not thousands, were flooded for a time. Many places that had never flooded before were under water.

February

A field on the outskirts of Limerick city must be the most expensive piece of agricultural land ever in the county – it sold for over a million in the boom and was bought for €156,000. Located at Derrybeg on the corner of Ballycummin and Ballyclough Roads, it is just two acres in size. Tom Crosse, of GVM, sold it at auction for €156,000. “It is the most expensive agricultural field I have ever sold.”

As Valentine’s Day approached, Macra is much better than Tinder if you are looking for love declared the newly engaged Ciara Ryan. 

Job satisfaction alone does not put food on the table or children through college, said Limerick IFA chairman Shay Galvin. It is income that does and the IFA fights every day to try and increase farmers incomes, he said in his address at the Limerick IFA AGM.

“Incomes are a problem when trying to encourage younger people into farming. The old joke, ‘You can make a small fortune in farming, provided you start off with a large one’ in a way highlights how much financial risk the farmer takes compared to other people involved in agri-business,” said Mr Galvin. 

When the Minister of Agriculture calls your farm “top class”, “incredible” and “a model operation” you know you must be doing something right. Minister Michael Creed visited Liam and Geraldine Herlihy’s farm in Bruree  to launch Dairygold’s Leanfarm initiative. 

March

While the rest of the country was worrying about bread during the Beast from the East, farmers’ main concern was water – and keeping it flowing to cattle and in parlours to produce the milk everybody is also bulk buying.

It is hard to believe that just over 50 years ago farmers from across Ireland marched to Dublin as part of the Farmers’s Rights Campaign. Richard Kennedy, IFA deputy president, and Limerick IFA chairman Shay Galvin presented IFA life membership scrolls to Seamus Martin, Ballysimon; Donal Costello, Kilmallock; Pat Fogarty, Cappamore, Sean Condron, Croom, front, Frank Fitzgerald, Mungret; Mark Kennedy, Kilmeedy; Donal Danaher, Ballyhahill and Michael Kiely, Clarina. All eight marched to Dublin in 1966.

April

Principal of Salesian Agricultural College, Derek O’Donoghue said the certificates presented to students at their graduation ceremony is a “testament to your work, your commitment and your dedication”. 

A crowd of over 100 attended a meeting on the fodder crisis in Hayes’ bar, Cappamore. Organised by farmer Robert Holmes and Pat Blackwell, of Teagasc, the size of the crowd indicated the severity of fodder shortages on many farms. There is a genuine fear among farmers that while they have coped so far, they are at the end of their rope if the bad weather continues, said Mr Blackwell. It did. Trucks began to roll in to co-ops with foreign fodder, including Dairygold in Cappamore. James Blackwell, Dromsally, said he was nearly out of fodder.

“It is the same all over. Lads are just hanging on. It’s a long winter. It has gone on too long. We just can’t get cattle out – the ground conditions are just too poor,” said James.

The harvesting of up to 1,000 silage bales began at Shannon Airport in a fodder crisis intervention.

Many farmers saw themselves in Cappamore man Eddie O’Malley. He told the Leader at one stage he didn’t sleep for 48 hours. 

May

Limerick ICMSA called on Irish Water to “get their own house in order” before targeting the farming community. Tom Blackburn, chairman, was responding  to an Irish Water press release with the heading, “Farmers urged to use best practice when spraying pesticides”. Mr Blackburn said the EPA had to initiate several prosecutions against Irish Water over sewage discharges in the last ten months.

It is hard to believe a few weeks ago that lorries full of fodder were rolling off boats at Irish ports. Now the silage season was in full swing. 

An angler who found two dead calves with their ears cut off in the Morning Star river in Athlacca called it “atrocious”. A further three dead animals were found in the Maigue in Bruree by another fisherman. 

June

The mercury rose to over 30 degree and farmers and their stock felt the heat. Paul Hannon, in Friarstown, Crecora, said they are in “serious trouble”. “We’re burnt to a cinder. I’m going out now to let them in [to sheds]” said Paul, at 2pm in the day. 

For the third year in a row the parish of Pallasgreen and Templebraden was home to the Limerick regional winners of the Dairygold Milk Quality Awards. Patrick Barry and his son Sean won the Limerick regional award for consistently supplying the best quality milk to Dairygold throughout 2017.

July

“Very smooth” said Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe after a spin on a Massey Ferguson on Michael McSweeney’s farm in Patrickswell. He and his son, Daniel, impressed upon the minister the seriousness of the effects of the drought.  

Local farmers were the cream of the crop at the Irish Holstein Friesian Association (IHFA) open day on the Collins family farm. The Limerick and Clare Friesian Breeders won both the senior section and the U-18 section. The senior team was made up of Derek Frawley, Croagh, Mike McNamara, Newtownshandrum, and John Curtin, Athlacca. The U-18 team was made up of sisters Clare and Jane Hannan, Crecora, and Aimee O’Donovan, Loughill. 

There was a fodder crisis meeting in Cappamore in April. If you had told the attendees then that there would be another one in nearby Boher in July they would have laughed at you. But nobody was laughing as the ground was bare and precious silage was being fed again. 

Former councillor, prominent dairy farmer and ICMSA member, John Egan opened up about his battle with cancer of the oesophagus. The Murroe man spoke out about his diagnosis to praise the oncology department in UHL and vowed to contest next year’s council elections.

A Limerick councillor said there is an epidemic of cows in the county. Cllr Eddie Ryan said: "I've seen a flock of them fly low over young calves in fields to move them away from troughs. They then eat the nuts in the troughs. They are able to boss the calves. They are a nuisance.”

August

The fodder crisis will trigger mental health problems among Limerick farmers said Tony Buckley at Cappamore Show. He was speaking at a forum on fodder and mental wellbeing. “The looming fodder crisis will be a major stressor for a lot of people,” said Tony.

Limerick Show was in hard luck as it actually rained on the day but there was still a fine turnout and excellent display of cattle. 

A Limerick farmer offered to swap six precious round bales of barley straw for a seat in Croke Park on Done Deal.

A major rift developed between the IFA president and deputy president, Farm Leader exclusively revealed. Joe Healy, IFA president, confirmed there was a bitter split between himself and Limerick's Richard Kennedy, deputy president. “It's more than a bit of a split now - it’s a serious split. It risks bringing down the organisation!" said Mr Healy, who is a Galway man while Mr Kennedy hails from Clarina. Richard had the last laugh when the whistle was blown on August 19!

September

What is next for Kerry Co-Op and its €2.3b shares? The ICMSA said the strong view coming from their members on the Kerry Co-Op situation is that any decision regarding a fundamental change in the current role of Kerry Co-Op must “definitely be put to shareholders for approval”. The Kerry Co-Op Shareholders Alliance wants to “spin out” the €2.3 billion worth of Kerry Group shares that Kerry Co-Op owns. 

Teagasc staff in Kilmallock welcomed a new and exclusive client - Liam MacCarthy. David Reidy, from nearby Dromin- Athlacca, brought the cup. The 45-year-old hurling famine may be over but the fodder crisis continued.

Gardai treated a hay barn fire in Cappamore as “malicious”. The barn, a lean-to and 70 round bales of hay located at Turagh, Cappamore were destroyed.

“The best dairy farm to come on the market in the region in 20 years,” is how auctioneer - Maurice Stack, of Sherry FitzGerald Stack - described 197 acres at Ballynacally, Ardagh.

October

A County Limerick farmer had 16 bales of silage slashed to pieces in what he described as a “despicable crime”. 

Qatar Racing doubled down on its investment in County Limerick by purchasing a second million euro farm in Manister.

Only for Nickie Quaid’s amazing save against Cork the Liam MacCarthy Cup could be in permanent residence in there. But thankfully it only made a fleeting appearance across the border to the Rebel county. Dairygold and its Limerick hurling mad CEO, Jim Woulfe welcomed John Kiely along with Declan Hannon, Richie English, Darragh O’Donovan, Graeme Mulcahy and Tom Morrissey.

A Limerick farmer was prosecuted after five dead calves and two cows were found by Department of Agriculture veterinary inspectors.

Kilmallock Mart’s first ever Tuesday evening show and sale of weanlings, runners and sucklers was a huge success with the main ring packed to the rafters.

“This is very special,” said Donal Neville, after his cow Milliedale Dusk Rhapsody EX95 was named supreme champion at the National Dairy Show in Millstreet. It capped a great year as Millie was reserve champion at the Baileys All Ireland show and champion in Charleville. And there was even more Limerick success as Paul Hannan, from Crecora, won the Ornua Cup for intermediate Holstein champion with Lisnalty Megasire Rituel.

November

A south Limerick farmer buying hay online to beat the fodder crisis was scammed out of a “considerable amount of money”.

A County Limerick farmer was fined €1,650 after a veterinary inspector found dead calves on land he had rented.

In the 54 year history of Macra Queen of the Land a Limerick lady had only won it once – Chris Clifford in 1990 - until now. Louise Crowley, from Croom, took home the crown.

John O’Shaugnessy, Kildimo, was awarded the sustainability award at this year’s NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards. 

December

Many Limerick farmers got an early Christmas present when they heard the details of the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) review. A total of 873 townlands in County Limerick were added.

John MacNamara, Knockainey, was named the Grassland Farmer of the Year award. Niall Moloney, Crecora, is Young Grassland Farmer of the Year, while John Leahy, Athea, received a merit award for most improved grassland.

It was a major change for Kilmallock Mart to even consider having a sale other than a Monday but the Tuesday evenings proved such a success that they will hold Wednesday evening calf sale next year. It will begin in February for the busy period.

A couple who sold a Friesian heifer to a Dutch farmer have now seen it go on to win a prestigious title in Holland. Tadhg Bourke, from Kilfinny, Adare, gave his then girlfriend and now wife, Veronica, a half share in the calf that is now the junior champion of the Dutch National Show.