The Minister said last night that it was as easy to grow wheat in this country at the present time as it was sixty or seventy years ago. I would like to know if the colleges under his Department have grown wheat recently, and with what success. In Athenry it is well-known that there is as good land for growing wheat as there is in any part of Ireland, and of my own area, Pallaskenry, the same may be said. I would like to know how many acres of wheat the Minister's two colleges in these areas have grown, and what success has attended it. In dealing with these colleges, I would also like to know if a balance-sheet could be produced showing whether they have been a success financially or not. The Minister also referred to our beef being regarded in England as only second or third-rate. I would like if the Minister would enlighten us as to the cause of that. Our beef leaves the land in this country in as good a state as the English or Scotch beef leaves the land there. But on account of the treatment it receives in the fairs in the country, in the loading at the railways and shunting of the wagons, in the loading and unloading at the boats, it is not anything like best class beef when landed at the other side. I have known butchers and exporters who have killed beef, and they have had to tear out four or five pounds from the carcases, they were so battered and bruised. The carcases are disfigured in that way. That is principally the reason why our trade with England is mainly a live-stock trade. If those cattle, after being taken off the boats, were put out on grazing and kept there for three or four weeks, they could be driven into the market and sold as best English or Scotch beef. That is the reason why our beef is classed only as third or fourth rate in England. Until we improve our transit and loading facilities in connection with the fairs and markets, our trade will be mainly a live-stock trade. I think the Minister should send some of his inspectors to see the way cattle are treated in loading. Their report, if accurate, would reveal a scandalous state of affairs. It would be well, too, if the Minister for Justice would send out some of the Gárda Síochána and have prosecutions. A certain amount of force is needed to drive cattle off an open platform into a wagon, and there should be a system of pens established by the railways. I have known cases down in Limerick where cattle were loaded at 10 o'clock in the morning and did not arrive in Dublin until 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock in the evening. I know where a cattle train was kept back two hours in Kildare while five "specials" from the Curragh were passing. The cattle were kept back while the sportsmen were passing.
Another reason why the cattle are so badly bruised is that they very often gore each other. I know the Department are doing their best to encourage people to dishorn their calves, but I know also that the Department has prosecuted people for dishorning cattle. I think it is greater cruelty to leave the horns on than to take them off. I tested that for myself in the case of a milch cow. I polled her on the 1st May. I weighed the milk for two days before I polled her. She was a winter cow, calving somewhere about Christmas. For the two days before she was polled her milk weighed 22½ lbs., and for five days after polling it weighed 20½ lbs. After that it increased. If there is any hardship in polling cattle, it should tell against the milch cow more than any other beast. I think it is a shame to prosecute people for polling cattle. Under the Anæsthetic Act, I am aware, you may poll cattle if you use a local anæsthetic. But farmers are not accustomed to the using of anæsthetics, and, in any case, they could not possibly use it on calves. I would like to see that Act either hung up or repealed.
Deputy Daly spoke about the use of artificial manures. There is no doubt that artificial manures are very good, but I am afraid they have been abused. When slag is put on too often, the land deteriorates to a great extent. Where it was put on this year, there was greater mortality amongst the cattle who got that hay than amongst the cattle fed on hay from land on which slag was not used. Deputy Daly suggested that lime should be used. Lime would be far better. I experimented myself with ground lime and slag, and I found that ground limestone is 30 per cent. better than slag. There was a very good kiln or mill that burnel the lime in my district. That kiln or mill is now closed down for the past two years. There were fifteen or twenty men employed in the mill, but because the Ministry of Finance was demanding income tax amounting to three hundred or four hundred pounds the mill is closed and the men are getting the dole. Instead of demanding income tax, it would be better to give that mill a subsidy to enable it to carry on. Some of the publicans who are able to escape income tax by the way in which they make up their accounts should be made to pay, rather than this industry. The Agricultural Grant is given to the different counties, but in reality that does not go to the benefit of the farmers. The officials of the county council will have the benefit, because farmers have to pay indirectly to a very large extent, and I would suggest that if a portion, at all events, of that were given as a subsidy to lime kilns or lime mills it will be better. The tillage farmer could be given a ton of lime free for a statute acre, and a man who would be willing to put out lime on grass land should pay a small portion, say, 25 per cent. of the cost. That, I think, has been tried in New Zealand with great success. I do not see why the Irish Government should not be as helpful to farmers as the New Zealand Government is. I make that suggestion to the Minister, and I think that that would be better than increased grants.
The sheep-breeding industry was not touched on by the Minister. I do not think we have more than 300 breeding sheep in the County Limerick, and I believe that the number of store sheep in the county is not very much more. The reason the numbers are so small is because the sheep have been worried so much by unlicensed dogs roving through the county at night. I understand that the dog tax law is not in force now, that there are no dog licences. I think I saw it stated in the Press that the Post Office would not issue licences this year, that they were instructed not to do so. I think that this branch of the industry is entitled to some protection. I know of a case in the County Waterford, where eighty-five good sheep of the Roscommon type were killed one night. That was a very serious loss. I think that the tax should be increased to ten shillings in order to do away with some of these mongrels. Deputy Baxter spoke about cinemas. I think that to a certain extent they would be very good, for instance, if a picture were taken of the prize-winners and of the rejected cattle at the Dublin show, and it were to be shown at the local shows, or in the towns by the instructors. It would be very helpful also if you had a chart in schools or in other places to show the difference between good stock and bad, and between good crops and bad.