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RTÉ One, Thursday, 8.30pm
Ear to the Ground

Programme 11

Ella McSweeney and Mossie O'Donovan

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Fighting the big freeze; the cutting edge technology used to create 'designer cows'; and how an innovative gardening business went boom during the bust.

Fighting the big freeze
With rural Ireland facing the biggest freeze in three decades, Darragh McCullough visits PJ McGonigle, a dairy and pig farmer in rural Donegal, to see the struggle that farmers are facing. During these freezing conditions, farmers are facing major problems providing the basics of food, water and shelter for their livestock.

Darragh witnesses farmers hammering through drinking troughs with a pick axe, cows slipping on frozen floors, and water freezing in milking parlors. As well as the difficulties, PJ McGonigle also shows us the community spirit that has emerged, as farmers are pulling together to help the entire community.

Designer Cows
Creating the genetically perfect baby may not yet be an option, but in the farming world, creating the perfect calves has become the norm. Ella spends the day with a local AI expert to see just what is involved in inseminating cows.

Ella follows the inseminator around farms in Ireland. She witnesses the cutting edge technology used to create genetically superior calves, and meets Ireland's top breeding bulls, one who has fathered over 10,000 calves.

Booming business
Four businesses went to the wall every day in Ireland last year, and garden centres were one of those badly hit. But Mike and Christy Collard of Future Forests in West Cork have developed an innovative gardening business that is booming through the bust.

The Chelsea Flower Show in 2002 brought Future Forests to prominence, when they were involved with a very Irish garden that won a quintessentially British competition. Native Irish species were heralded as significant and beautiful. Helen meets the Collards to find out why they are pushing for farmers to preserve our native plants and hedgerows. She sees their progressive approach to business, as they find a way to make Irish plants pay.