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25/09/2021

WATCH: Milk spilled into slurry tank at Limerick farm as hedge dispute continues

A COUNTY Limerick dairy farmer has spilled his herd’s milk into a slurry tank for the last month in a dispute over a hedge.

The Leader revealed the story in early August. Robert Hickey, of Carrigmartin, Ballyneety said he has received no contact from the council in the meantime

On Friday, he emptied his fourth bulk tank full of milk. The milk is valued at over €5,000 to date.

The 52-year-old received a note from a driver for his milk processor on Monday, August 2. It read: “Last collection ‘til bushes cut back.” He had previously received warnings that his milk collection would stop due to the overgrown roadside hedge along the public road leading to his property.

Since August 2, Mr Hickey has been keeping the milk in the bulk tank until it was full and then emptying it.

However, after the last load was discarded on Friday he said he had to cut costs.

“There is no point cooling milk and then dumping it into the slurry tank. I’ve turned off the bulk tank and now the milk goes straight into the slurry tank,” said Mr Hickey.

He describes the last few weeks as being “very stressful” but he won’t back down.

“I hate seeing it going to waste. If any member of the public wants free fresh unpasteurised milk please contact me,” said Mr Hickey.

He says he won’t be cutting the hedge as it is the council’s “responsibility”.

A council spokesperson said: “The landowner is incorrect in his assumption that hedge cutting is the responsibility of the local authority and should cut his hedgerow from September 1.”

Mr Hickey says this “contradicts” what a council employee said in a court case where he was prosecuted. During the hearing in 2018, the council employee said they take the view that it is responsible for the “surface and margin” of all public roads “in as far as the roadside ditch”.

Mr Hickey's position is that the hedge “is in the charge of the council as was stated in court”.

He says he can’t dry off his cows because they would get mastitis this time of year.

“If this isn’t sorted I won’t be in dairy next year. I’m going to continue milking them and putting the milk into the slurry tank until the time comes to dry them off. I'm not touching the hedge. It is not my responsibility to cut it. I’m being driven out of business because the council won't take responsibility.

“They took away my rights to my own property in court and now they're not taking responsibility for it,” concluded Mr Hickey.

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