I will preface my remarks to-day by saying that the dairying industry is the most important industry in the country. From it springs practically the whole of the nation's income. From exports of dairy produce alone, for the year ended 31st December, 1956, we received £6,910,945. The exports consisted of chocolate crumb, cream in bulk, cream in sealed tins, condensed milk, dried milk, infant and invalid foods made mainly from milk or milk powder, cheese, creamery butter, non-creamery butter and other milk products.
Our cattle exports depend on the dairying industry and on the number of cows maintained by the dairy farmer. It is absolutely essential that the dairy farmer should be given every possible incentive so as to ensure that that line of production will be maintained.
We often hear talk of plans for this and plans for that, but no plan is as essential as a plan for agriculture. The farmer must always plan for many years ahead. He must plan for the time his dairy cow is mated. The time that must elapse until the produce of that cow appears on the open market is about three and a half years. It is absolutely essential that farmers be well versed in whatever plan is in the mind of the Minister and the Government as regards the dairying industry and the other branches of farming. Take tillage, for instance. A tillage farmer must plan ahead because of the various rotations.
This may be the wrong time to speak about pigs and poultry, but I cannot let the occasion pass without saying how vital these two sidelines are to the economy of the small farmer. If the pig and poultry industry goes—and there is a grave danger of that at the present time—it will be very difficult indeed for the small farmers to exist. Their means of livelihood will practically be taken from them, since it is in those two subsidiary industries to the dairy cow, that they make their livelihood.
Those small farmers should know, at the outset and in advance, what they should do in connection with the development of those two industries. They should know in advance if they are to produce table poultry and turkeys for the export market. It is all very fine for people who are not farmers to say: "Increase production and we will have more for export and thereby reduce our trade balance." The farmer and the farmer's wife, who go to the trouble and expense of producing more and more for export and find that as a result they lose more than they gain, that they are worse off at the end of the period than when they started producing, are being given a very poor incentive to continue in these industries. It is important that those small farmers producing pigs, poultry, milk and other commodities should know well in advance what they are to get for them, so that they can plan ahead and invest their money in something from which they may expect to reap a reward.
If we are to keep abreast of modern times, we must use modern methods. With the advent of mechanisation, in a good many farms now it is much easier to produce than it was in the past Machinery is to a great extent taking the place of manual labour. However, the capital outlay on this machinery is so great that very often it takes years and years before a farmer can make what he has paid for the machinery. It is necessary, therefore, that farmers with tractors should till as much of the land as possible. The importation of maize and wheat should be almost unnecessary. With modern mechanisation, we should be self-sufficient in providing the necessaries for man and beast. Wheat, oats and barley can be grown very successfully, but the farmer should know in advance what he is to get for those commodities. I know we imported barley from France and imported wheat; but I think we are nearing the time when we should not require either one or the other, when we should grow our own for our own requirements.
In regard to the compounding of this food which is produced at home, it would be very desirable that the farmers who have to buy these compounds should know what they are buying. In the past, during the last war, anything that was ground up fine enough and put into a sack could be sold at about 35/- or even £2 a cwt. and it was a compliment to get it. No one knew the ingredients in that sack. The only intimation one got was that it contained albuminoids, oils and carbohydrates. Even that same tag is on the bags to-day. I really think it is not sufficient for the farmer to buy a bag of compound ration to-day and see a label on it that it contains albuminoids, oils and carbohydrates, without knowing exactly the ingredients which went into the compounding of that ration. It would ease the mind and clear the air very much if the producer could know the ingredients. It is very easy now for compounders to put in a percentage of filling or a substance which will make weight. There is a vast difference between the various types of fat. To point out one—there is a big difference between the fat in a pound of butter and the fat in a pound of margarine, because no amount of fats in margarine would be a real substitute for the fat in a pound of butter.
Similarly, with regard to the analysis of some of the animal feeding stuffs we buy, while they may seem all right on the tag, that the bag contains all the necessary albuminoids, oils and carbohydrates, it would be far better that we should know also what it contains in barley, oats, wheat, meat and bone meal, fish meal or any other ingredient which goes to make up that compound. It would clear the air for the farmer and he would know for what he is paying his money.
In rearing cattle, pigs or other animals it is absolutely necessary that they be fed on a balanced ration. I have no hesitation in saying that if the farmers were assured they could buy that balanced ration at a reasonable price, leaving a reasonable margin of profit for the compounder, a good deal more of the grain grown in this country would be sold and bought back in the from of this ration. However, there is a great amount of suspicion, when a farmer sells his oats and barley in the harvest time, that there will be a grave gap indeed in the price at which he will have to buy that back from the merchant a few months afterwards. That is a matter which will require very close study. The Minister should ensure that that big gap would not exist between the price which the farmer gets for his grain and the price at which he can buy it back afterwards in the form of a suitable ration.
In this country for the past 40 years, we are dabbling in cow testing. The present system, which has been in operation down the years, is so out-dated now that it is obsolete in the whole system of administration and the whole system of its working. The result is that farmers do not go into cow testing now with the same enthusiasm as they did 40 years ago. There was an interest taken in it for a few years when a farmer tested every cow in his herd, but once he had got to know the test of his herd, the same necessity would not arise to test these cows year in, year out.
While I am a great believer in cow testing, I think the whole system should be revised and nationalised to such a degree that the supervisors would visit every farmer in the country who has a dairy herd and who is interested in getting his heifers tested.
There is a duplication of services at the present time between the cow-testing associations and the Department of Agriculture whereby cow-testing supervisors test the herds and the inspectors in the Department of Agriculture go in testing the progeny of A.I. bulls. I feel that there is a certain amount of duplication of service there. It is a necessary thing that all first calf heifers and possibly second calf heifers should be tested, but, after that, the farmer knows what his heifers are doing. He can compare the various heifers and the progeny of the various bulls and he will be in a very good position to know the bulls that are breeding good milkers and the bulls that are breeding bad milkers. It is with that outlook in view that I recommend to the Department a drastic overhaul of the present out-dated system of cow testing, so that every farmer will be in a position to have his heifers tested and to judge the development of his future herd on the good quality of his heifers.
It is time that some step was taken in that regard because the present system of cow testing no longer holds the same attraction as it did some years ago. Moreover, it would give the farmers a chance of comparing the progeny of the A.I. bulls imported into this country with the progeny of our native-bred bulls. From my experience in the country, our native-bred bulls are breeding far superior animals, both from the point of view of milk and stores, to the progeny of the imported bulls which came into this country and are located in the A.I. stations that I know.
I think, then, that the development of our own dairy shorthorns is a matter that should not be neglected for the sake of the imported breed of shorthorn about which we heard so much some years ago. I know that Deputy Moher is very interested in the Friesians. I have no objection to any farmer having whatever breed of cow he thinks best suited to his own requirements. From my experience, I feel that in West Cork the dairy shorthorn is the most suitable to the conditions obtaining there. Living in East Cork, perhaps Deputy Moher may be more anxious to retain the good Friesian, but as a foundation stock for breeding with Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford, I still hold that the shorthorn is the most suited to my part of the country.
A certain part of my constituency is congested district and I have been asked by many farmers if I could get more Aberdeen-Angus bulls located in their area. The cross of the Aberdeen-Angus bull with the dairy shorthorns which we have in our part of the country is an excellent cross for the development of our store export trade, but, unfortunately, we have not got enough of that good right type of Aberdeen-Angus bulls in the congested districts. I would ask the Minister to consider very seriously the granting of more of the good Aberdeen-Angus bulls under the C.D. scheme to farmers who require them for themselves and their neighbours to cross with their dairy shorthorn cows.
It is not always an economic proposition to breed all shorthorns, but it is certainly a good thing to have a few—and a good few—Aberdeen-Angus bulls in the constituency from which I come so that the trade in stores will improve and the income of the farmers increase as a result of that policy. I know the Hereford is an ideal cross for cows in the better part of the area, but you want a better class of cow and a better fed cow to produce the Hereford calf. The area of which I speak is chiefly a congested district. I understand that they are anxious to get the Aberdeen-Angus bull and I firmly believe it would be a great asset to them if they had more of these Aberdeen-Angus bulls to produce good stores.
In County Cork, we have gone in extensively for advisory services under the county committee of agriculture and there is no doubt that there has been a great development in rural science. The farmers are getting to know more about what the soil contains and what it requires for the production of good crops. The establishment at Johnstown Castle is certainly of great benefit to Irish farming. There the farmers can get their soil tested and get to know what the soil requirements are for the growing of the various crops. With the extension of the advisory services in County Cork, I have no doubt that we will be able to produce a lot more from the soil of Ireland than was produced in the past.
With ground limestone, fertilisers, the putting in of good seed, the land reclamation scheme, reseeding, improvement in the breed of cattle, modern scientific methods and the advisory services which are now being given to practically every farmer in the country, we will be in a better position to produce more. It is very desirable that the Minister should make his plan known so that farmers who have invested so much capital in their land, in machinery, in increasing production generally, will know where they stand. They should be given some idea of how to proceed, whether they should increase production further, whether they should put more labour and more effort into their economy.