RTÉ One, Thursday, 8.30pm
Ear to the Ground

Programme 16

Ear to the Ground

Rapid dairy expansion, production up by 64% in 4 years - we're not talking about massive enterprises in New Zealand but rather a corner of East Waterford! The Tay Valley Group, a group of 25 farmers, massively expanded their production over the last number of years and still plan on expanding by a further 40% in the coming years. The group have gone from 1,415 cows in 2007 to 2,315 cows at the end of 2011, creating 15 local and sustainable jobs. Darragh McCullough visits the group in Waterford and asks if this model could be adopted by other areas to exploit the abolition of milk quotas in 2015?

We've all heard of delicacies such as champagne and caviar but what about abalone? Known as the "truffles of the sea" abalone are shellfish that have become quite scarce in most countries around the world where they used to be plentiful. At a price of ¤50 per kilo, it may not be within everyone's budget but the Connemara Abalone has found lucrative markets selling to Iceland, the Netherlands, the UK and even as far afield as Mozambique and Singapore. The abalone are reared in state-of-the art aquaculture farms where they are fed entirely on locally harvested seaweed. This week Helen Carroll heads to the Connemara coast to meet the people using the very latest in scientific technology to farm this highly-prized shellfish delicacy. With the focus on innovation and export led products could these abalone offer us a way in to niche markets using our own natural resources?

We constantly hear how the agri-food industry is one of the only industries thriving in the country at the moment. However, despite all this optimism small sheep farmers are still struggling to survive. This week Ella Mc Sweeney travels to the Glencree Valley in Wicklow, to meet the last full time sheep farmer in the valley. Keegans have been farming the valley for hundreds of years and full time farmer Michael and his wife Hannah are doing everything in their power to make sure that they are not the last. The couple have recently opened a farm shop in a bid to supplement their income. Is this a new reality for young farmers that they will need a supplementary enterprise to support their families? Ella McSweeney investigates.

Ear to the Ground is produced by Independent Pictures for RTÉ

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