Proposed dropping of dribble bars from grant aid resisted

The potential decision by the Department of Agriculture to disallow grant aid on dribble bar slurry equipment in favour of grant-aiding trailing shoe technology was raised at the February meeting of Cavan County Council.

Addressing the meeting, Fine Gael’s Winston Bennett stated that the trailing shoe simply “won’t work for 90 percent” of Cavan farmers, and described the move to exclude dribble bar from the latest TAMS funding as a “backward step”.

He said dribble bars were “proven to work” on Cavan’s undulating landscape, and that a lot of farmers “trying to do the right thing” had switched to using a band spreader.

The emergency motion was seconded by fellow party colleague T.P. O’Reilly who said that the decision would result in more farmers having to use contractors to carry out spreading at a time when financial pressures are mounting.

He said that a dribble shoe was “fine for a dry day, but when it’s a wet day you can’t use it. It’s going to be an extra cost.”

Paul Quinn of Mastek, one of Ireland’s leading manufacturers of dribble bars, said that a similar move in other European countries proved problematic.

“Eight years ago, I visited eight farms in Finland when farmers were required to move to trailing shoes due to new Finish legislation. The conditions on many of these farms were not right for such machines - they pulled up stones, broke the springs, damaged shoes, etc. To avoid such problems, I watched farmers operating the shoes raised 300mm above the ground, versus a dribble bar, which runs at 40-50mm above the ground. Thus the shoes were having the opposite effect on emissions. I’m afraid this will be the same story in many parts of Ireland if this becomes the situation here.

“In Germany, dribble bars are still grant-aided but only for farmers with grassland, which makes sense. Meanwhile, German farmers have to use a trailing shoe on open soil (stubble).”

He went on to say that, from talking to Cavan farmers, it’s obvious that a trailing shoe system isn’t suitable for their farms due to the nature of the ground, particularly in fields with rushes, on stony ground, or on hills.

Paul says that trailing shoes are also significantly more expensive to operate than dribble bars and slurry tankers will require upgrade works and may not be suitable for small tankers.

“We have found that trailing shoes are 50% heavier over like-for-like width dribble bars, they are 35% more expensive to buy and will cost 20% more each year on running costs. In terms of retrofitting, there are several issues. Brackets need to be fabricated to attach the trailing shoes to the tanker’s chassis, and attached via a top link.

“Meanwhile, with the dribble bars, it’s just a matter of taking off the tanker’s back door and bolting it straight on. Smaller tankers won’t be balanced with the additional weight hanging off the back. The trailing shoe will lift the drawbar on the tanker, as they don’t sit as close to the back of the tank as dribble bars do.”