A wet start to 2023

For a while there it felt like the mist just wouldn’t go away and that the rain was never going to stop. I went digging for information on how wet it had been and discovered that from September up until January 26, Sherkin island has recorded 799mm of rainfall. The rainfall recorded at the Sherkin island weather station was 1,069mm. I reckon we could see a few dry spells ahead later in the year at the rate rain has fallen over the last few months. One of the positives of getting that level of moisture is the time of year it arrived at, so we can be thankful for small blessings.


On farm the next few weeks will see grazing begin and, while calving is kicking off on a lot of West Cork farms, I’m hoping there won’t be much stirring until closer to the start of March. Getting the yearling heifers trained to on-off grazing will be my priority. They’ll get out to grass for a few hours and will be brought back in by night. It takes a small bit of time but in the long run it pays off. There are a number of cows that were not in calf who will stay out full-time. In other years, these would have been fed ration from late autumn or into the winter for finishing. But given the cost of ration and the volume a suckler cow would eat, it just doesn’t stack up financially.


Another job on the cards will be both hedge planting and a small bit of hedge laying as part of the ACRES scheme. I can’t commence this until I get notification that I was accepted into the scheme so it looks like much of this work will be completed in autumn 2023 instead. The window for planting these is ideally November to March, as this is when bare root plants are dormant. Maybe given the amount of rain, it might not be any harm that planting was held off on.


Speaking of planting, there has been much news lately about a deal between Coillte, Ireland’s semi-state manager of forestry and investment fund, Gresham house.

According to Coilte, “The ‘Irish Strategic Forestry Fund’ will provide up to €200m capital needed to create new forests, making a significant contribution to Ireland’s Climate Action Plan. The fund will also acquire existing forest assets and, when fully deployed, will represent a portfolio of approximately 12,000 hectares of new and existing forests.”

Like many others, I’m uncomfortable with the deal. Similar types of investments in housing look to have made it much more difficult for a generation to own their own home. It’s a deal that’s leaving a sour taste on the ground and could hang in the memory for a while even if it never actually comes to fruition.

It would put you thinking though. If an investment company sees an opportunity in buying land in order to draw Government premiums for 15 years, are farmers missing a trick? Farmers already own the land and would be eligible for 20 years of premiums. Plus, in the case of family farms, the land and timber remain their asset after the grant-aided period has elapsed. Naturally, there’s pros and cons, but it may suit those who have no successor who is interested in farming but still would like to maintain a family connection to the land. It would probably need some creative thinking to consider a co-op type approach, but the challenge of trying to reach consensus makes forming this idea a reality.

WCP Staff

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