Cows enjoying the multi species grass.

Bypasses, climate change and female farmers

Kathleen Duffy reflects on all that affects the local farming community in her latest column

Last week should have been Virginia Show, an occasion that has dominated our lives and the lives of almost 200 other members on the third Wednesday in August for many years. We can only look at the show’s social media and remember events from bygone days. Hopefully 2022 will see a return.

The town of Virginia will be changed by then with the new car park opened. The bypass route has kind of been decided, but with variations, and this does affect some of our outlying land. We all need to be sensitive to the many people who will be affected by this choice of route, especially householders and farmers and the shops.

The announcement of the new road being built reminds me of the discussion around climate change the last few weeks, and a piece I heard on the radio that transport emissions are up 153% since 1990. Perhaps related to climate change our fruit trees suffered from the drought period and didn’t do well this year, our apples fared better than the plums. I need to summon the energy to pick and preserve them.

On the farm we are still coming back from being affected by the hot weather to slowly building up grass using the Autumn budget, as much as possible. We are highly stocked, but the growth has been much better this last few weeks. We may not be able to take a third cut from the outlying land. The second cut has been pitted with the third cut of Red Clover field being baled for mixing in diet feeder later on. We are continuing our trials with our ‘multi-species mix’ in a south facing field on a slope, and prone to drought. This mix includes species with deep roots like chicory and plantain along with clovers and grasses. The field was reseeded right at the beginning of the drought last year, and over an extended period the dusty bare paddock turned slowly into a field with many of the species we wanted, and some we didn’t. The drought gave the deep rooting sow thistle a boost. But a combination of a weed licker and topping after the cows had eaten the rest, seems to have done the trick on the sow thistles. However we are now seeing ragwort coming into it, and the sprays for treatment are not safe for the new species. Thomas is currently planning some approach to kill these out without resorting to spot spraying.

The cows love it and it is keeping protein up, our B Fat is 4.10 and Protein 3.47. How long this mix lasts in the ground isn’t known yet, but the more people that trial it the better. We only put 20kg N on it once in June, so the saving on fertilizer is significant both financially and environmentally. Macra had a farm walk here this week and the multi species created a great talking point.

Farming in the future

None of us can tell the future, but an avalanche of reports have come out in recent weeks stating that decisions will be made that will change the face of Irish farming. Strong lobbying will be done by the farm organisations as well as business interests.

Firstly Food Vision 2030 presented their take on what must happen within the Agri-Food sector. For Ireland to have a climate smart environmentally sustainable agri-food sector, they say we must strive for: viable and resilient primary producers with enhanced wellbeing; food which is safe nutritious and appealing trusted and valued at home and abroad; and an innovative, competitive and resilient agri-food sector, driven by technology and talent. All lovely visionary words, but like the Virginia bypass, it does affect some peoples livelihood more than others.

CAP reform

There are so many changes suggested in this new CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027, and Ireland can select different measures within the framework. Over the last few years Ned, I and others have listened to Thomas as Macra President in conjunction with CEJA (Young farmers in Europe) fighting hard at EU level to get reform to suit the young and active farmer.

He has been trying to mitigate the financial burden of environmental changes being demanded. Now the ball is back in Ireland's court, but there is only a short window in which to tease out the proposed changes. There were three Town Hall virtual meetings for public consultations, and I found all of them very good. Over 700 people logged in the first evening. The consultation period has been extended by a week which gives people a chance to make a submission. Simply email and have your say as everyone will be affected.

Gender Balance

There is a movement to lobby the Minister for Agriculture to provide funding to address female farmers' second class status in farming circles.

Low level of recognition and promotion for the role of women in agriculture has been an ongoing issue over the years. The Department of Agriculture’s own SWOT analysis states: “In Ireland, less than 12% of landholders are women presumably as a result of traditional cultural bias towards male successors, resulting in women rarely inheriting land.”

Under the next CAP plan countries must promote women in farming between 2023 and 2027.

In addition, the Irish Government’s own Food Vision 2030 has stated that a National Dialogue on Women in Agriculture should be held. So women in agriculture this is your chance to have your voice heard!

Nitrates reform

Ireland has set a draft Nitrates Action Programme, and farmers will incur additional costs to comply with its changes. New rules on closing dates, soiled water, soil testing and slurry storage will result in increased costs, as more storage capacity will be needed. Fertilizer usage and derogations are changing and all these feed into the new CAP as well.


Schools are starting back this week and we need to support all the teachers, parents, young children and young people returning. It’s daunting but the benefits outweigh the risk according to current guidance.

By using technology lots can be done to facilitate socialising, and although it's not the same as meeting face to face, it has still been a godsend. If we have good Broadband we can work and play from home, this could be the start of the revival of rural Ireland.