Never before has the traditional small farmer in Ireland who is used to breeding his own calves and rearing them up to five, six or seven cwt. had such a bad time, or have prices been so bad. The Minister realised this and got what I called last night conscience money from the factories of £750,000 to £1 million towards a fodder fund. When you analyse that, you see that all they are getting is £15 per small farmer. That is a pittance and the Government should realise that they need much more. If the slaughter premium or its equivalent and the intervention equivalent were passed on to the cattle they are selling that would be reasonable.
I know one small farmer who sold a 6½ cwt heifer last year for £120. This year a 6½ cwt. heifer out of the same cow and, if anything, perhaps, a fraction better than last year's animal, made £55. The factory price plus the £29.5 would bring it up to £104. If he got the intervention price for that live animal it would be £117 which would be very close to what he got last year. The Government should have seen that this was implemented.
The factories say they have been working to full capacity but they should have been put on shift work. They should have worked three shifts around the clock as any industry with an unlimited market would do. In this way all the surplus cattle would have been disposed of and the farmers with fat cattle would have got a good price. They would pass on the price when they were getting the replacements. Those people would buy in younger cattle and the price of cattle would have been practically normal.
Never before have store cattle made £s per cwt. less than fat cattle. Young cattle have always made a couple of £s per cwt. more than fat cattle. The Government have been bungling in regard to the cattle trade. I pointed out last May on an Adjournment debate that we were running into problems with beef coming on to the market in autumn. I pointed out that there would be a glut and a rapid fall in prices. The Minister said everything would be all right but now we see what has happened. The small farmers along the western seaboard, in the south, and in the midlands have felt the full impact. In many cases they will never be able to recover from the losses they have suffered this vear.
During the period from now until Christmas they will feel the pinch. They have a little money at the moment from what they have sold, but it will run out very quickly. The man I mentioned who sold the heifer last year for £120 and another for £55 this year is married and has four children going to school. His commitments are greater than they were last year and he is getting less than half the price. With inflation at over 20 per cent in the past year how will that man survive? He has a few more of those cattle and he was depending on selling them.
Another thing that could have helped——but like everything else it is too little and too late——was giving half the slaughter premium on cattle exported to the EEC countries outside Britain. It appears that the Government are broke. The only money they can give the farmers is what they can get from Brussels. They cannot put anything to it themselves. It is like the conscience money, the pittance from the meat factories. The Government have not added anything to it.
This is a time of national crisis in the cattle industry and for the small farmers. The Government should ensure that the price from the factories or the intervention price goes right down along the line. As this was Deputy Callanan's question I should like to give him an opportunity to contribute.