Senator Victor Boyhan told the Seanad on Monday that he wants CAP supports for small farmers out-wintering cattle and asked Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett if they can continue to use ring feeders.

He said he had a lot of engagement with small farmers on the issue and that these farms were small and mostly former Land Commission holdings.

“We’re talking no more than 30ac, 40ac to 50ac. To be fair to these farmers, these are very holistic, sustainable little farms, farms that have been successful in out-wintering cattle, all year.

"You can be successful in certain places where the where the ground is firm.

Tailored husbandry

“They also have tailored the farming husbandry and mechanisms to the tight constraints that they have and they are able to be successful,” he said.

Citing GLAS, he said that ring feeders were in operation “then they were stopped” and “under the GLAS a lot of farmers engaged in the low input permanent pasture (LIPP)”.

He said that farmers want to continue to out-winter cattle, where possible

“So the knock-on effect of the LIPP was that it reduced their holdings in terms of grazing and yes that was a scheme, and yes there was funding in relation to that scheme.”

He said that farmers want to continue to out-winter cattle, where possible, and want some assurances in terms of the CAP.

“Who and how can we support these farmers and can they continue to use the ring feeders, albeit moving them around the farm, so that they can feed silage to their animals?” he asked.

Supporting small farmers

In response, Minister Pippa Hackett said she is committed to supporting small farmers and that they are vital to rural areas.

“Whatever we can do to support farmers to keep farming in these areas, I think we will absolutely do everything we can,” she said.

“The next CAP can influence the interventions at farm level, and the development of the CAP strategic plan involves a number of stages, including SWOT analysis needs assessment, intervention design financial allocations, target setting, and governance systems.

“Consideration is currently being given to measures that will be supported under the new CAP strategic plan and stakeholders will be further consulted on this shortly following the consultation.

"The draft plan will then be subject to strategic environmental assessment and the ex ante evaluation and further public consultation process before submission to the commission,” she said.