‘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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Cattle on the run lead to brawl between neighbours over fencing
A row over cattle fencing resulted in a man being convicted of assault and a second criticised for using inflammatory language in a case described by a judge as “a sorry mess between neighbours”.

Trevor Deane, aged 34, of Clounties, Dunmanway, Co Cork, denied two charges arising out of the incident on July 29, 2016, when it was claimed he assaulted a neighbour, Michael Casey, causing harm and also assaulted Mr Casey’s brother, Patrick.

Michael Casey, who runs a car valeting business, gave evidence that at noon on the day he saw five cattle belonging to Deane in his field. He said he failed to make contact with Deane by phone but got the cattle out. At 5pm, he saw between 10 and 12 cows back in his field. He tried to return them but gave up and rang Deane.

“I said put up your fence, I am fed up with this craic,” the witness told Clonakilty District Court.

Mr Casey said Deane arrived and then started calling out to him, saying “out in the road” and “are you a coward, or what?”

He claimed Mr Deane accused him of being “the cause of the trouble”.

“He started jumping around the road like Muhammad Ali,” Mr Casey said. “Next thing, he made a drive for me.

“He said ‘you’re a coward’. I said you are only looking for compensation off your neighbour.”

Mr Casey claimed Deane kicked him and then struck him “a belt of a fist”, knocking him on the ground. He said he managed to roll away, before his brother, Pat, who was also present, shouted at Deane to stop.

Michael Casey said Deane’s father, Reggie, was present and had accused Mr Casey of “blackguarding” his son.

“I said you had right to have drowned your young fella, we wouldn’t have these problems at all,” Mr Casey said, in the witness box. He said after that exchange “we got stuck into a row”.

Images of cuts and scrapes on Mr Casey, taken later that day by gardaí, were shown in court.

Mr Casey denied there had been issues between the two families for decades and said he could only count four years since 2002 when cattle had not strayed on to his property.

Patrick Casey said in evidence that Deane seemed “in a violent rage” and after a discussion about the fencing, Deane hit Michael Casey and then hit him in the ear. He said Mr Deane “sort of kicked the legs out from under [his brother]”, who landed in the dyke.

“I started roaring at him and said ‘stop, for God’s sake, you’ll kill him’.”

Deane’s solicitor Eamonn Fleming queried why Mr Casey’s initial statement to gardaí gave different estimates on how many cattle were in his field at both times that day while, in evidence, Trevor Deane claimed the Caseys had been abusive to him since he was a teenager and denied going to Mr Casey’s place at all that day.

He said he had been in Skibbereen Mart — producing a sales invoice to prove it — before returning home for his dinner and then going to an outside farm in Coppeen.

Deane’s partner Siobhán gave a similar timeline for the day and his father Reggie said, after returning from the mart, he had fallen asleep in front of the television.

Garda Kay Gaynor said she tried to discuss the incident with Trevor Deane but was unsuccessful and when she met Reggie Deane she said he became abusive.

Judge Mary Dorgan said “good fences make good neighbours”, adding: “Cows being cows, they break out.”

She said Mr Casey’s “drowning” comment was “a terribly inflammatory thing to say”.

“I am not impressed with the evidence I heard from either side,” she added.

Deane was convicted on both charges and was bound to the peace for 24 months and fined €350.

*This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.*

KT farm improvement deadline extended
The deadline for submission of data for farm improvement plans has been extended to facilitate weather conditions.

A two-week extension to the date for submission of farm improvement plans in the Knowledge Transfer (KT) Scheme has been granted. Farmers now have until 14 August to submit their plans. However, the 31 July deadline for holding meetings of KT groups remains in place.

Processing will begin on cases submitted by the original 31 July deadline in order to ensure that any impact on payment timelines is minimised, the Department has said.

“This extension has arisen on foot of concerns expressed in relation to the amount of resources currently being dedicated by advisory services to assisting farmers in dealing with the current weather conditions,” Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said.

Creed urged all participants in KT groups to submit their farm improvement plan data as soon as possible.

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