Farmer writes: Hard to find a voice of reason in clamour over suspect BSE case
When Ciarán Lenehan first heard the news about BSE, his first reaction was to search Twitter for voices of reason amidst the sensationalist clamour.

I’m standing in the corner of a Kepak chill, pondering the bleak outlook surrounding my very-immediate future.

The white-walled fridge-room is empty, save for a handful of researchers, a butcher and 10 boxes of beef. The whirring fans have only just shut down; it’s shudderingly cold.

Earlier that week we’d slaughtered 30 experimental bulls. Now the task was to dissect their corresponding cube rolls; a joint comprising the first five ribs on the hind-quarter. Its ratios of lean, bone and fat give an accurate representation of total carcass composition.

We struggle through it and retire to the canteen for sustenance. Ah, sweet heat. I try in vain to crack a boiled egg with yet-to-defrost fingers. My phone squeals, a message pops up and the numbness quickly dissipates. BSE is back.

The chatter begins. Never was there a more apt setting to hear such news. Around us, ringtone frequency increases notably; farmers and agents with questions and answers.

I jump to Twitter – an excellent barometer for both the seriousness of a story and the public’s opinion. It isn’t good. Sensationalist headlines litter the tweet-o-sphere.

The terms “suspect” and “positive” intertwine dangerously. People are “kissing goodbye” to beef prices and international trade agreements in less than 140 characters.

Like many, I know next-to-nothing on the topic. Undertaking a PhD has taught me the importance of proper evaluation. No, sit tight keep quiet and find out the facts.

There’s still nothing new on Twitter. I wade through the hundreds of negative reactions for truths, but it’s no good.

I’m drowning in a pool of ill-informed speculation and gossip. It’s reached the UK now. I’m reminded of the local power-walking forty-somethings, looking over the fence into a naughty neighbour’s.

“You’ll never guess what he’s gone and done now...”

Finally, a factual article from an informed source surfaces on the Irish Farmers Journal's site. As suspected, there had been excess hot air blown into the story initially. Clickbait is a valuable currency, and it rained from the sky with the news of BSE. The matter could have, and should have been handled better in terms of informing people. The initial hours of damning headlines will not have helped Ireland’s invaluable reputation. Though flames were quickly fanned, what do they say about first impressions?

Weekend weather: close and humid
The outlook from Met Éireann is for close and humid weather much of the time, but mixed. Some bright or sunny spells at times, but cloudy, misty, damp periods too.

The best of any sunshine will be over Ulster later on Friday. Top temperatures 17 to 21°C, best in parts of east Munster and south Leinster. Moderate southwest winds this morning will become northwesterly later.

Mild and misty Friday night with a mix of clear spells and cloudy periods. Some patches of drizzle in places early on, but generally dry.

Saturday

Largely dry and bright on Saturday. Some hazy sunshine, but cloudy periods too, especially so over parts of Ulster and Connacht, where some drizzle is likely later in the day in Atlantic coastal areas. Top temperatures 17 to 21°C, in just light to moderate southwesterly breezes.

Saturday night

Mild and misty overnight. Some patches of drizzle will develop along the northwest coast, but most other areas should be dry. Lowest temperatures 11 to 14°C in light variable or southwesterly breezes.

Sunday

Close and humid in light to moderate southwesterly breezes. Rather cloudy and misty generally, with scattered patches of drizzle and fog about. These mainly over Ulster and Connacht. But dry, bright spells will develop too, with some sunshine coming through at times. Highs of 18 to 20°C in many northern and western areas, but values in the low to mid-20s elsewhere, best of all in sunny breaks. Humid and misty overnight also, with occasional drizzle about and lows of 14 or 15°C.

Monday

Remaining close and humid, but rather mixed. Some dry, bright spells, but cloudy, misty periods too, with occasional rain and patches of fog. Top temperatures 18 to 20°C in many western and northern areas, but in the low 20s over more southern and eastern areas.

Tuesday

Fresher for Tuesday, with bright or sunny spells, but some cloudy periods at times too. Mostly dry, with any showers light and very well scattered. Highs of 16 to 20°C in just moderate southwesterly breezes.

Management notes

Drought conditions, housing bulls and farm safety are all topics for this week's beef management notes.

In dairy this week, Aidan Brennan looks at reducing grass demand, the outlook for grass growth and says farmers should stay positive during the drought.

This week's sheep management notes cover drought management, worm burdens, blowfly strike and cobalt supplementation.

And in tillage, with grain yields appearing to be down on recent years, the option to grow forage catch crops might help to bolster the yield loss.

Batch AI crushes covered in TAMS II
The special crushes, designed to make the AI service quicker and easier on dairy farms were included in TAMS II recently.

Batch AI crushes are now included in the Traditional Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) II. The batch crush allows farmers to artificially inseminate (AI) a group of cows quickly and safely. In the batch crush system, cows are controlled in a similar fashion to a herringbone parlour where a group of cows stand in a row side by side. Batch crushes have become more popular on expanding dairy farms where large numbers of cows have to be inseminated daily during breeding. Traditionally cows were artificially inseminated in an ordinary cattle crush. Some farmers have found this system to be tedious because each cow has to be individually restrained.

Reference costs

The Department's reference cost for batch AI crushes is €191/linear metre excluding VAT. The length is measured from the entrance gate to exit gate in a straight line along the breast rail. Grant aid is based on either the lowest of the Department's reference cost, the proposed cost by an applicant at application stage or receipts per finished investment item. The minimum approval per application under all schemes is €2,000. General applicants are entitled to grant aid of 40% towards the cost of a finished and approved investment. Qualifying young farmers are entitled to grant aid of 60% towards the cost.

Specifications

In TAMS II, all building work has to meet the Department of Agriculture’s minimum specifications. The Department has listed these specifications on the TAMS section of their website. The specifications for batch AI crushes can be found under S137. The main specifications include:

  • Batch crushes may be either fixed width or adjustable width.
  • They are designed for dairy cows only.
  • The crush must be designed so that cows stand at an angle across the crush, in a similar manner to a cow stand in a herringbone milking parlour.
  • The unit must consist of a rump rail, breast rail with neck rail and front and rear gates.
  • The width of the crush depends upon the size of cows.
  • The rump rail must be at least 1.28m high and consist of at least three fixed rails and one drop rail (a total of four rails).
  • The breast rail must consist of at least two rails, in a lattice form, of minimum 60mm OD tubing with a 3.0mm wall for adjustable width batch AI crushes and of at least two rails of minimum 48.0mm OD tubing with 3.0mm thick wall for fixed width batch AI crushes.
  • The neck rail must consist of at least 90mm OD tubing and must be supported such that the cows head cannot be caught against the vertical elements.
  • Farmers planning on building a batch crush through TAMS II should become familiar with all the specifications listed under S137. If the crush is not designed to the Department's specs you may not receive full grant aid for the project.

    Batch crushes make it easier and quicker to carry out artifical insemination on a group of in-heat dairy cows during the breeding season.

    Applications

    TAMS II is set up in a series of three month long tranches. Applications for the scheme are taken while a tranche is open and approvals to make the investment are usually issued a couple of months after the tranche closes.

    The closing date for the current TAMS II tranche (11) applications has been set as 7 September 2018.

    The Department has proposed that tranche 12 will open on 8 September 2018 and close on 7 December 2018.

    Tranche 13 will open for applications subsequently on 8 December and close on 5 April 2019.

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    Over 14,995 TAMS II applications so far