A wool co-op and a grass biorefinery should be established in Roscommon to diversify farm incomes, a new report has recommended.

The report, The People’s Transition Roscommon Farmers, was led by the Think-Tank for Action on Social Change (TASC).

A wool co-op would build upon the cultural significance of sheep production to Roscommon and “using wool for insulation could help address the lack of income sheep farmers gain from wool while also having climate benefits by improving energy efficiency”, the report found.

New wool markets could provide for the sector, increasing co-operation among farmers, potentially in the form of co-operatives and could lead to better returns for farmers producing wool, the report added. It could be used for insulation, the report points out.

Report project manager Kieran Harrahill said that “one of the main issues is the lack of value farmers are receiving for wool at the minute. An example of this is that farmers are paying 45c to shear wool and are only receiving 20c/kg for the wool”.

“The Government is pushing for the need to retrofit homes and the likes of Roscommon County Council has a duty to retrofit social housing,” he said.

Following on from the project, the Roscommon leader partnership aims to engage with the Wool Hub, which was established in Munster Technological University and is intended to provide research, development, and innovation support to farmers.

Grass biorefinery

A second solution for farmers is to create a grass biorefinery co-operative. In a biorefinery, grass is processed to produce green feed materials and energy. The byproducts from the grass biorefinery are press cake and brown juice.

Harrahill explained that “press cake is after the protein has been extracted. The press cake can then be used for cattle feed or in an anaerobic digester.”

Following on from the research, he stated that “feeding press cake to a dairy herd can reduce nitrogen and phosphorus emissions while also not negatively impacting milk yield or milk quality”.

The report highlighted a range of factors to consider before this option would be considered, such as ensuring a continuous supply of grass and the costs of establishing a biorefinery.