RTÉ One, Thursday, 8.30pm
Ear to the Ground

Series 22: Programme 5

Ear to the Ground

Disease lurks in Irish water wells - how safe is yours?
While urban Ireland opposes water charges, many rural dwellers have to supply their own water, and the cost can be more than financial.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that over a third of the 170,000 private wells in Ireland are contaminated with E.Coli and ten percent could be infected with VTEC, a highly dangerous bug that can cause serious illness in children and older people.

The VTEC bug originates in cattle, and can infect the well if it is not sealed properly. Ireland has the highest rate of VTEC infections in Europe.

Ella McSweeney talks to Dr Una Fallon of the HSE about the bug, and Darragh Page of the EPA about how well owners can protect against pollution. She meets a farm family in Co. Louth who are drilling a new well to ensure a good supply of clean water for their farm

Ditching their text books for the sale catalogues Buying and selling bloodstock is a rich man's game, and yet four boys from Belmullet in County Mayo have made a killing in the market, as part of their transition year project.

Patrick Reilly (16), Patrick Lavelle (16), Sean Lavelle (14) and David Dickson (16) from Our Lady's Secondary School ,Belmullet and St. Brendan's College Belmullet, formed 'Erris Bloodstock' as their mini company for their transition year project. They sank their savings into the purchase of two fillies at the Goffs November sales last year. The aim was to rear them for a year on the Erris peninsula, and sell them as yearlings.

In an unpredictable game they hoped to make a small profit, but the fillies thrived under the boy's care, and when they entered the ring as yearlings the two horses sold for over ¤21,500, with one of the yearlings going for ¤16,500 to a buyer in Saudi Arabia. This left the boys with a clear profit, after feed and other costs deducted, of ¤11,000. Instead of blowing their good fortune, they decided to keep the group together and return to the sales in Goffs on November 17th to see if they can repeat their previous success. They've had their eye on a couple of promising colts and Ear to the Ground went along with them to see if they were successful.

The Birds and the Bees
It's no exaggeration to say wildlife populations are under considerable threat to survive, and none more so than the birds and the bees. 70% of the food we depend on is pollinated by bees. Next year a new scheme will pay farmers to create new habitats which will allow wildlife, like bees to thrive.

One way of doing this is by growing a wild flower margin on the edge of mainstream crop fields, like wheat and barley.

During the Summer Darragh McCullough visited a margin in Kildalton Co. Kilkenny . He met with Sandro Cafolla, who's been growing native Irish wildflowers, and keeping biodiversity alive saving and selling irish seeds for the past twenty years.

As we move towards 2020 we are becoming more industrial - where in this system do we allow a place for biodiversity and wildlife?

Ear to the Ground is produced by Independent Pictures for RTÉ

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