Watch: pumping water without energy
A Kilkenny farmer has installed a new system to pump water to troughs from a river without the use of electricity, writes Peter Varley.

Last week, the Irish Farmers Journal visited Tom Brennan’s farm in Paulstown, Co Kilkenny. Tom is a part-time drystock farmer. He buys in continental heifers every year and puts them in calf before selling them on again privately. This year, he joined Glas and, as part of the scheme, he was required to fence off the boundary river. Fencing the river caused problems for Tom because there was no pumped water system on the farm and, prior to Glas, he had water points where the heifers could go to drink in the river.

Mains electricity was over a mile away, so that was also ruled out as an option for powering a pump in the river or sinking a new well.

Tom felt that bringing electricity over to the fields would be just too expensive because it would run into thousands of euro, so he had to look at alternative methods of getting water to his heifers.

He started googling methods of pumping water from a river without the use of electricity or fuel and came across some videos on YouTube of ram pumps working in foreign countries that did just that. The ram pump uses a combination of water flow and air pressure to pump water from a river. He could not find any that were made in Ireland, so he called Derek Cummins, who offers electrical and mechanical services, to help him design a similar system that would work in his river.

According to Derek, he had to adjust the system to suit Irish conditions – the fall in the rivers here is usually a lot less than elsewhere.

After several attempts and adjustments, Derek designed and made a system that pumps water from the river to a reservoir tank on top of the river bank. From the tank, gravity fills two water troughs in the fields. The series of photos and Figure 1 helps to explain how the system works.

There is also a video online that shows the system in action on Paul’s farm. Similar systems were used as far back as the 1800s – perhaps they might make a comeback.

Derek is available to install this system for more farmers and he is constantly improving it as he goes.

Picture one

Derek used 4in diameter plastic pipe and the opening was set in a rock pool in the river.

The river on Tom’s farm had a fall of 4ft from the pipe opening to the pump location.

There is a cone-shaped filter trap at the mouth of this pipe to prevent leaves or other debris going inside. The 4in pipe acts as a reservoir of water, which makes sure there is a constant supply of water to the system further down.

Picture two

This plastic pipe takes water downhill for 24m down to a smaller 2in diameter galvanised gun barrel pipe. Once the water moves from the large-diameter plastic pipe to the smaller-diameter gun barrel pipe, the velocity increases significantly. Derek has manufactured a fitting to join the 4in pipe to the 2in pipe since he made Tom’s system.

Picture three

The water continues down the 2in pipe and into a check valve. The systems works via hammer effect. The water hammer pushes a quick surge of water through the check valve, the water gets trapped after the non-return valve, so it cannot escape back. The cycle repeats constantly hammering the water through the check valve.

When the first valve closes, the second one opens. This fills the pressure vessel with water (approximately 50%). As the pressure increases between water and air, water is pushed out the discharge pipe and up the hill. No electricity is used to pump the water.

Picture four

The water fills a 1,100-litre (IBC) reservoir tank at the top of the bank. The system pumps one litre in 37 seconds. This reservoir tank fills two 500-litre water troughs via gravity – one trough is 250m away. Once the tank is full, the overflow goes back into the river.

Tom says the system is ideal for his 40 maiden heifers and, if his land was not as hilly, he thinks he could add more troughs.

For Derek’s river pump (DRP) system, you would need at least one length of 4in pipe (20ft length) and the farmer usually supplies this. Two lengths of gun barrel are required (6m/length), which Derek supplies because he says it has to be the correct type to work properly.

For a 1.25in pump and gun barrel, it costs €850 excluding VAT. Derek says labour costs varies, depending on the type of site and distance travelled to the site but he says, on average, he would have to charge €600 excluding VAT for the two days’ work to install the system.

He believes that it is a job for life and the cost is justified. He also charges €250 excluding VAT to call out and use a special test kit to check if the river is suitable for the system outside of the Carlow region. He says any river with a fall over 2ft should be suitable, while more adjustments have to be made in the case of a fall under 1ft.

GLAS payments welcomed
The IFA has welcomed the roll-out of GLAS payments.

IFA rural development chair Joe Brady has welcomed the roll-out of GLAS payments to 33,000 participants under the scheme. He said that it is important that the remaining 16,000 participants are also paid without delay.

The IFA reminds farmers yet to submit documentation related to nutrient management plans, commonage plans, rare breeds and low emissions spreading to send it in immediately, or risk having their payment delayed.

Ifac farmer seminars
In association with the IFA, ifac is hosting a series of farmer seminars at the end of November.

The ifac seminars will cover tax tips for the coming year, financial planning, CAP reform, farm schemes and preventing rural crime. Next week’s meetings, starting at 8pm, take place in the locations below:

  • 26 November: Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, Co Kildare.
  • 27 November: The Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise, Co Laois.
  • 28 November: Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Co Carlow.
  • 29 November: Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny.
    Market insights: increase in beef and pigmeat exports
    In a partnership between the Irish Farmers Journal and Bord Bia, Phelim O'Neill looks at meat market trends.

    Although Brexit is just over six months away, and prospects of future trading arrangements are still uncertain, the British share of Irish beef exports grew by 2% in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2017. In the first six months of this year, 107,142t or 1,626t of Irish beef was sold in Britain compared with 105,516t in the same period last year, an increase of 1,626t.

    This importance of the British market for Irish beef exports is illustrated by the gap between it and our second-largest export market – France. The French market took 20,195t in the first half of this year, which actually was less than the first half of 2017 when 21,507t of Irish beef was sold in France.

    Declining markets

    Other markets in the EU also showed decline in the first half of this year compared with 2017. Sweden, which has been growing market in recent years, fell from 8,471t in the first half of 2017 to 7,027t in the first half of this year, a 17% decline. Spain too fell sharply from 5,051t in the first half of 2017 to 4,115t this year, as did Denmark, which was down from 5,301t in the first half of 2017 to 4,595t in the first half of this year. Belgium too slipped this year compared with 2017 from 2,757t to 2,550t.

    Growing markets

    The biggest growth market for the first half of this year was the Netherlands (NL), which grew from 15,780t in the first six months of 2017 to 17,655t in the first half of this year, an increase of 12% and that made the Netherlands our second most important export market for beef after Britain. Italy too performed strongly, with 12,101t exported this year compared with 10,884t in the first half of 2017. In percentage terms, Switzerland was the strongest performer, with a 40% increase, though this was of a low base of 1,068t in the first half of 2017 growing to 1,497t this year.


    Offal and byproducts are an important part of the overall value of the beef animal to the industry. It is a product that is less popular in our traditional markets, with the majority of sales to Asian and African markets. Hong Kong (HK) has been Ireland’s largest offal market in the first half of 2017, taking 10,346t, but this slipped this year to 8,590t, putting HK into second place behind Britain, which took 8,895t of Irish offal.

    The Philippines market for Irish offal has grown this year from 4,561t in the first half of 2017 to 5,697t in the first half of this year and remains our fourth most important offal market. Sweden comes next on 3,730t for the first half of this year down from 3,956t for the same period last year. France, however, has grown this year to 3,417t, which is up 11% on the first half of last year.

    While Africa is a major market for dairy, we don’t normally associate it with being important for the beef sector. However, the west African country of Ghana took 3,113t of Irish offal in the first half of this year, which is down from 3.497t in the first half of last year. Offal sales to the NL increased this year by 17% to 2,073t and Poland was also up, taking 1,171t in the first half of this year.

    New markets

    In future market reports we expect that China will feature prominently but although the decision was announced in May, no product was exported to China before the end of June. The US, which has been a slow-growing market since it was opened three years ago, showed a big growth in offal imports for the first half of this year. However, the growth of 120% was on a very low base of 310t which increased to 681t in the first half of this year.

    Pigmeat exports

    Ireland, like most other EU countries, is producing more pigmeat this year, with supplies up by 5% to 141,000t compared with 133,800t in the first half of 2017. As with beef, Britain remains the biggest market, taking 54,800t between January and June this year, which is down from 55,900t in the same period last year.

    Sales to China, the second most important export market for pigmeat, fell to 28,700t in the first half of 2018 compared with 32,800t in the first half of last year. Strong competition from other EU exporters is the cause of this decline though China remains our second most important export market by a considerable distance. Denmark is in third place on 9,300t for the first six months of this year which is a big increase from 6,700t in 2017.

    There has been very substantial growth in Asian markets outside of China. Japan has increased by 2,000t year on year from 4,200t in the first half of 2017 to 6,200t for the first half of this year. Exports to South Korea have almost doubled from 1,600t in the first half of 2017 to 3,100t this year. There was strong growth also in Australia and the Philippines with exports of 4,700t to the Philippines, up from 3,400t last year. Australia took 3,400t this year, up from 2,900t last year.

    Lamb exports

    The volume of Irish sheepmeat exports was down 9% to 24,204t in the first half of 2018 compared with the previous year, though stronger prices meant that the value of exports were actually 4% higher when compared with last year at €149m.

    Both of our largest export markets fell in the first half of 2018 compared with the previous year. France was down 8% at 7,778t for the first half of 2018 while the UK market fell by 15% to 5,446t in the six months to June compared with the same period in 2017.

    There has been considerable growth this year in Ireland’s smaller export markets. Germany is now a very substantial export market for Irish lamb, taking 2,690t in the six months to June, which is a 24% increase on the same period in 2017. Belgium has also been an important growing market for several years and the first half of this year showed an 11% growth on the previous year of 11% to 1,994t. Irish exports to Belgium have increased threefold since 2010 when 1,274t was exported for the entire year and the Delhaize supermarket group, which has 800 stores, now stocks exclusively Irish and British lamb under the Celtic Lamb logo.

    Challenging year for global grain production

    Reduced wheat and barley yields

    Due in part to challenging growing seasons in key grain production regions including Europe and Australia, total world grain production is expected to show a second consecutive annual decline in 2018/19, to 2,063mt (million tonnes).

    For the first time in six years, the global wheat harvest is predicted to fall 42mt, while barley output could be the lowest since 2012/13. This has contributed to strengthened grain prices over the past number of months.

    However, after a drop in the previous year, the maize crop is expected to rebound, although this is mainly forecast on planting potential improvements in South America, where planting for 2018/19 is only just beginning. The global maize harvest is now pegged at 1,087mt.

    Record soya bean harvest

    Global soya bean output in 2018/19 is expected to expand by 8% to a record of 366mt, driven mainly by good harvests in major producing countries. For example, expectations for the 2018 US soya bean harvest were recently raised from 124.5mt to 130.1mt.

    Despite a challenging global trading environment, increased imports to Europe and a number of other countries has offset the fall in China’s purchases, resulting in an increase of 3% in soya bean trade in 2017/18.