Friday 31 January 2014

DVO Joe gives us a Green Light

We're very pleased with ourselves this week as we have passed our inspection by the District Veterinary Officer for Roscommon, Joe, fit to keep pigs. We get our Herd Number and paperwork through the post in a couple of weeks. We were reasonably confident we'd be able to "talk a good game" but nervous that the guy might want to see actual fences, the 'ark' and any buildings we would be using for isolating sick animals and so on. That is all in the future and, if we could wing it this way, the investment would depend on our getting the Herd Number in the first place.

Supervising the three westies to make sure they slept enough
In the event we needn't have worried. DVO Joe was a really nice bloke and we could see straight away that he was not going to do a 'jobsworth' on us.  It had been dry for a couple of days and the puddles had drained, so we could walk him round without it looking like a quagmire, and he was impressed by our big well drained mud-less 'Secret Garden' with its down-slope banks helping it to shed water. He was impressed by the amount of space we are assigning to the pigs, and could see our standard of fencing and housing from the existing sheep fence and my woodwork on hutches, runs and coops. We quizzed him on the logic and legality of allowing the wallow (all pigs need a wallow) to be part of our rain gulley and how close their pen might come to our septic-tank soak-away. He was happy to advise and adjust; maybe he was more comfortable with having steered these beginners back onto the straight and narrow at least once.

We got the impression that the inspection is as much about fencing, shade, wallows, concrete, buildings and cattle races as it actually is about checking that we looked competent, sensible and responsible. Joe presumably decided we had an adequate supply of the last three, gave us the green light and then agreed to come in for 'tay' and some of Liz's fresh baked scones. This even though he had another smallholding to visit and inspect before he headed up north to do some export inspections, cattle destined for the UK. Now we are approved we can give some serious thought to all this fencing, ark-building and piglet buying that we had, up to now, been putting off till May and the (pig keeper) training course. The scone-bashing came out again a bit later as we collected Vendor Anna and partner Paul from the airport at Knock. They'd left their car here for 2 weeks while they sunned themselves in Lanzarote, making use of our 'Park and Ride' offer. They were delighted with the scones after meagre Ryan Air victuals.

Lamb Paté. Nothing to do with this story what so ever.
So there we are in 'responsible citizen' mode, making our piggies all official and we've carried that campaign on by investigating the planning implications of a huge new infrastructure project which promises to cut a swathe through here between our holding and the town of Ballaghaderreen. This is a huge electricity grid improvement project running lines of bigger-than-normal pylons across from north County Mayo where they pick up from the wind farms, through Co. Roscommon and through to Carrick on Shannon. Naturally this is all going through the planning stages right now, proposed 'corridors', consultation, displays of maps in public buildings, opportunities to object and so on.

Everyone is mad keen interested to see how close the pylons will come to them and whether there is compensation payable for blight or enforced changes of land use and how much Grid West will be paying in 'sweeteners' as environmental and community grants for projects near the wires. We went along to a display of maps etc and chatted happily to the young lady on stand, who answered all our questions and loaded us down with brochures and print outs as well as giving us the latest 'gen' on recent press statements. There is money to compensate you if you have just bought the property and were hoping to plant forestry, and if you were planning a build and have that through to signed off final planning permission. They will also compensate you if you already have forestry that needs felling in the path of pylons (a corridor as wide as two tree heights either side of the the wires). There is money if you are 'too near' the cable runs, quite generous if you are within 50 m (€30k) but falling away on a sliding scale till you are 200 m away. (Needless to say the pylon lines will not be running close to many houses).

But don't hold your breath if you have already spent your new found riches in your dreams - the latest 'gen' has it all back on the drawing board as the Ministry Man, Pat Rabbitte has now announced that it is all going back for a review of whether to do the cabling up in the pylons or underground. This one could run and run. It is called "Grid 25". I hope they didn't mean 2025. For our own part, all the existing routes pass more than 5 km from our back door, so no cash for us.  

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