RTÉ One, Thursday, 8.30pm
Ear to the Ground

Programme 2

Ear to the Ground

Farmers can spend hours every week herding cattle from one field to another to graze. Five years ago, Niall O'Reilly from Kilnaleck, Co Cavan worked in Dublin and spent his weekends helping his brother on the family's dairy farm. Convinced there had to be an easier way to farm, Niall set about researching other systems and discovered the 'zero grazing' concept which is widely used on the continent. Cows are kept in the yard and fresh grass is mown daily and brought to them using specifically adapted machines - a veritable bovine breakfast in bed! Niall has since returned to Cavan and has set up a business selling zero grazing machines to Irish farmers. With record rainfall, damaged paddocks and heavy grass growth this year, Niall tells Darragh McCullough that business is booming. Darragh also meets farmers who use the system and Darragh Hand, the engineer who has adapted the European machines to suit Irish terrain.

Thalidomide, a drug sold in the 1950s to relieve symptoms of morning sickness, led to over 10,000 children around the world being born with birth defects. John Stack is one of the thousands living with the effects of thalidomide. On his farm in Tarmons, Co. Kerry, he talks to Ella McSweeney about growing up in rural Ireland with a disability. He lived with his aunt and uncle because with four other children to raise, John's parents could not provide the particular attention necessary to care for a disabled child. John is an active livestock farmer and speaks inspirationally about overcoming obstacles and never allowing his disability to hold him back. Dr. Austin O'Carroll, uncle of Dublin footballer Rory O'Carroll, is another awe-inspiring thalidomide spokesperson. He gives Ella a medical overview of the condition, his personal perspective of living with it and discusses the ongoing legal battle with the pharmaceutical manufacturer who only recently issued an apology for the scandal.

Wellies aren't usually a school uniform requirement but Lisheenkyle National School Oranmore, Co. Galway is no ordinary primary school. Not only are children learning their ABCs, but like Old McDonald, they also know their E-I-E-I-Os! Children and staff at the school care for cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and a horse. This is more than an educational exercise however, as principal Anne Keary is attempting to secure a herd number for the school. This would allow them to profit from the surplus energy returned to the grid by the wind turbine they were gifted by local company C&F Green Energy, which generates the school's power. As school budgets continue to shrink, Anne asserts that if the school continues to be denied the opportunity to profit from their surplus energy, her staff and students will march on the Dáil.

Ear to the Ground is produced by Independent Pictures for RTÉ

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