‘If you like going to the mart every week, a producer group is not for you’
A discussion with three farmers who were members of producer groups was held at Sheep 2018 to find out what were the benefits, challenges and potentials of such groups.

In many areas of the country, farmers have organised groups and pooled resources to increase the end value of their product and create linkage, transport and marketing channels with potential customers.

At Sheep 2018, the Irish Farmers Journal chaired a discussion with three farmers who were members of such groups to find out what were the benefits, challenges and potentials of such groups.

With much of the stands at the event focused on increasing stocking rate and ewe prolificacy, there were criticisms from some that the sheep sector was going towards numbers and was forgeting about quality.

Donal Mee of the QuelEUtex Lamb Producer Group was keen to emphasise that was not the case in his group.

“We were set up in 2016 to get a number of Texel and Beltex breeders together to produce lambs for the Belgian market. It’s a niche market, but there are niche markets out there - it’s not all about numbers.”

That opinion was echoed by Joe Scahill of the Mayo Mule and Greyface Group.

“You’d get numbers any day of the week, but it’s the quality that’s important. We set that standard for ourselves and by doing that, we now have good-quality breeding sheep and then you collect a certain premium for that ewe.”

He said that it had taken a long number of years for his group to get to where it was when it came to securing a premium for stock.

Ken Mathews from the Offaly Lamb Producer Group pointed out that the primary function his group was to secure the best price it could for supplies, along with some added benefits.

“The real value is the ease. For people who are working off farm, their lambs are collected for them, so that they can get their day's work done. It definitely helps the part-time guys out,” he said.

All three members of the panel agreed that the most important things for a group to succeed were good organisation and committed membership.

While all three highlighted the positives of group membership they did say it was not for everyone. “If you like going to the mart every week you should never join a producer group because you’ll either cause so much hassle in the group or you’ll feel you’re losing out,” Ken said.

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Regulator to review controversial Shannon water pipeline project
The Government has asked the utilities watchdog to conduct a review of Irish Water's proposed pipe to carry water to Dublin through farmers' land.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy has asked the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to carry out a review of Irish Water's Eastern and Midlands Water Supply Project before decides whether to give his green light to construction.

The review and the Minister's decision relate to Government spending on the investment, and are separate from the planning permission process. The CRU is the State's independent regulator for the energy and water sectors.

The 170km pipeline proposed by Irish Water would bring water from the river Shannon's Parteen basin to the capital.

Map of the Eastern and Midlands Water Supply Project.

IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney said it was important for the review to assess the need for the pipe against other options.

"This is a huge imposition on the 500 landowners along the way," Cooney told the Irish Farmers Journal, taking a up a 50m-wide corridor during construction and leaving permanent infrastructure such as sluice valves in the long term.

"It's like an underground motorway and we'd want to make sure it's absolutely needed," Cooney added, hoping for an opportunity for farmers to make submissions.

We are confident that Irish Water's plans will not stand up to proper scrutiny

Liam Minehan, who farms on the route of the proposed pipeline in Co Tipperary and participates in the opposition group Fight the Pipe, said the group had been looking for a review for a long time and hoped it would be fully independent.

"We are confident that Irish Water's plans will not stand up to proper scrutiny," Minehan said.

A statement from the Department of Housing said the review was needed "given the scale and importance of the Eastern and Midlands Water Supply Project and recognising the CRU’s statutory role as independent economic regulator of Irish Water".

Irish Water has described the project as "the option which delivers the widest benefit to the greatest number of people, with the least environmental impact and in the most cost-effective manner".

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'Sheep stealer the worst thing to call a farmer in rural Ireland'
A court in Donegal this week heard that to be called a sheep stealer is the worst thing a farmer can be called in rural Ireland, writes Stephen Maguire.

A solicitor has told a court that to be called a "sheep stealer" is the worst thing a farmer can be called in rural Ireland.

Solicitor Patsy Gallagher was speaking at Falcarragh District in Co Donegal after his client had been charged with handling 35 stolen lambs.

John McBride (47) of 11 Firmount, Milford, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty to a total of 35 sample charges.


Solicitor Patsy Gallagher told the court there was a “stigma” attached to the offence, saying "to be called a sheep stealer in rural Donegal is the worst”.

Garda Enda Jennings said that in April 2017, he had been approached by a local farmer, Michael Cullen, who informed him that 76 of his lambs had been stolen.

He had carried out an investigation and lambs had been traced to a location at Carrownagannonagh in Milford and after getting a warrant they seized 37 lambs.

McBride claimed the sheep and lambs were his and told gardaí that he had bought the lambs from a man who he had failed to identify.

He said he bought the lambs for €20 each although the court was told that lambs cost €50 each and the accused should have known the real value.

No suspicion

Defending solicitor Patsy Gallagher said his client, who was on social welfare, had paid the money for the lambs but there had been no suspicion that he had been involved in the theft of them. He had bought them with the intention of selling them on.

Pointing out that McBride was “deeply remorseful” for his actions, Gallagher repeated that he had had “no hand or part” in the theft of the livestock.

Referring to the “stigma” to such incidents within the farming community, the solicitor claimed: “To be called a sheep stealer in rural Donegal is the worst”.

Judge Paul Kelly said there might have been more sympathy for the defendant if he had assisted the gardaí with their investigation initially.


“He is dealing with the consequences of failing to co-operate.”

Taking to the witness stand, Mr Cullen told the court he had 76 lambs stolen in total.

He went on to claim that Mr McBride had been working at the mart in Milford and was not unemployed.

On the 35 sample charges before the court, Judge Kelly sentenced the defendant to three months imprisonment suspended for two years on his own bond of €250.

He also ordered the defendant to meet the costs incurred by the gardaí in transporting the lambs, totalling €3,300, and also the costs of €6,423 to the Department of Agriculture in the case.

BDGP deadline: Department tells ineligible farmers to buy stock
Farmers in the BDGP scheme have been told by the Department that they risk payment penalties if they do not meet the scheme’s requirements.

The Department of Agriculture has issued letters to farmers in the first round of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), informing them to “purchase” replacement heifers if they are not on target to meet scheme requirements.

Under the terms and conditions of the scheme, 20% of the replacement females in a herd must be four- or five-star on the maternal €uro-Star value index by 31 October, or farmers risk losing 40% of their scheme payment.

600 herds in the BDGP scheme did not meet this requirement

“If you do not have sufficient females of this rating you will be required to purchase these animals and have them on your holding on 31 October 2018,” the letter from the Department reads.

“Failure to have these animals in your herd on that date will result in a significant penalty to your payment.”

In response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s Martin Kenny earlier this month, Minister Michael Creed stated that approximately 600 herds in the BDGP scheme did not meet this requirement.

There are currently approximately 22,600 herds on target

“This is expected to reduce when the next evaluations issue shortly,” Minister Creed said, adding that farmers had been advised if they were not on course to meet the required target.

“There are currently approximately 22,600 herds on target to meet the minimum 20% four- or five-star female requirements by 31 October 2018,” the Minister added.

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