Series 27, Episode 6
Ireland’s dairy sector is facing a serious animal welfare issue this coming spring as farmers prepare to deliver an expected 1.5 million calves. Over 750,000 of those will be bull calves and some farmers will struggle to house and look after them properly – a challenge that will be exacerbated by compact calving where 80% of all calves will be born in a six week period. Ella McSweeney goes to Cork – Ireland’s largest dairy county – to find out what the options are for farmers. With a weak beef sector and uncertainty around live exports – where is there for these animals to go?
Wild Irish Foragers
Gordon Greene inherited his father’s 50 acres in Co Offaly and he and his wife Sharon were reluctant to get into intensive farming. One autumn, Sharon brought some homemade rosehip syrup to a local farmer’s market and it flew off the shelves – inspiring her to research old recipes to utilise the wild flowers and berries growing on the farm. Five years on and the family have an award winning range of produce that they supply to health food shops and restaurants across the country. Helen Carroll joins the Greenes in Shinrone and helps pick ingredients for nettle syrup.
The mountains of Mayo are home to a particularly hardy breed of sheep, the Mayo Mountain Blackface. Their owners too are hardy folk, as Darragh McCullough discovered when he joined the Cusack family from Keeloges, as they fetched their sheep from the mountain for winter. Over the years, the commonages have been overgrazed, so farmers have had to cut down on the number of sheep they keep. With lambs fetching as little as €50 a head, fewer and fewer farmers are able to make a living. Sinead Cusack has farmed here all her life and manages a flock of 70 ewes and 15 suckler cows on her 100 hectares.