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*Jack Enright & Joe Melody happy to see the sheds emptied for the spring.

A strong forestry sector must be attractive for farmers but currently there is little ambition for the sector from Government, Joe Melody writes.

April is one of my favourite months but is also one one of the most hectic in that it is a month that sets up the farm in terms of grazing for the year ahead but also in terms of preparing the cows for the breeding season now only less than three weeks away.

We will be bringing our stock up to date with their vaccination program and some mineral bolus’ for the heifers and cows. If we do our job correctly this should go a long way to setting up our maiden heifers and cows for a successful breeding and production season. Of course the big variable at play is always weather but we can only do our best and adapt to whatever is thrown at us, it has always been this way for farmers.

Biology and nature are living, moving, evolving so we can not presume that a set of prescribed actions will always produce a reliable set of results but we must persevere using current best practice regardless.

We started the second grazing rotation at home on the 31st of March. Our first few paddocks had covers of grass ranging from 1,280kg dry matter per hectare up to 1,520kg. This would be far higher than what we would normally have on these paddocks for the second round. This is obviously down to the higher soil temperatures than average that the country had in the months of February and March. Most of our late calvers are left out on carried over grass and are getting minerals through lick buckets and as they spring to calve they are being brought home.

Most classes of farm produce are currently enjoying strong prices whether it be lamb, beef or milk, however one area of real concern is the forestry industry. The prices are strong and are rising by 5% which is ahead of construction cost inflation. The issue is not price for farmers and forestry owners, its the ability to fell the timber from their forest that has reached maturation.

This is as a result to objections to felling licenses by members of the public, or rather serial objectors. The Department of Agriculture had processed almost 500 appeals with 50% of the objections coming from one individual living in the south of the country. This is coming at a time where we have a housing crisis. In one month last year tree felling licenses were suspended, stopping the felling of more than 100,000 cubic meters of timber. That is enough timber to build 5,000 homes.

Forestry is a very attractive sector of agriculture for many people, you don’t have to be very involved as there are professional contractors who take on the project for you, the income from forestry in Ireland is tax free and many of the evergreen species will grow on land that is marginal and not very suited to anything else.

Over a week ago the Government agreed on a climate bill aimed at bringing us to net-zero carbon by 2050, it’s a fine ambition. If the Government are serious about reducing carbon we need a strong forestry sector that is attractive to farmers, it shows little ambition for the forestry sector in 2021 that a single nuisance serial objector can put a halt to the progress of hundreds of landowners and farmers.

Government must put a system in place whereby these objectors must stump up a deposit to register their objection and a substantial one at that, that will test the courage and integrity of their convictions.

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