A Co. Limerick dairy farmer has continued dumping milk from his herd into a slurry tank for the last month in a dispute over a hedge.

Robert Hickey, of Carrigmartin, Ballyneety said he has received no contact from the council since he first starting dumping milk in early August.

Last Friday (September 3), he emptied his fourth bulk tank full of milk. The milk is valued at over €5,000 to date.

The 52-year-old received a note from a driver for his milk processor on Monday, August 2, stating that no more milk would be collected until bushes are cut back.

He had previously received warnings that his milk collection would stop due to the overgrown roadside hedge along the public road leading to his property.

Dumping milk into slurry tank

Since August 2, the farmer has been keeping the milk in the bulk tank until it was full, and then emptying it into the slurry tank (see video below).

However, after the last load was discarded last Friday, Hickey said he had to cut costs.

“There is no point cooling milk and then dumping it into the slurry tank. I’ve turned off the bulk tank and now the milk goes straight into the slurry tank,” he said.

He describes the last few weeks as being “very stressful” but is adamant that he won’t back down and that the hedge is the council’s responsibility.

“I hate seeing it going to waste. If any member of the public wants free fresh unpasteurised milk please contact me,” he added.

Council response

A council spokesperson said: “The landowner is incorrect in his assumption that hedge cutting is the responsibility of the local authority and should cut his hedgerow.”

The open period for landowners to cut hedgerows began on September 1.

The dairy farmer has said that what the council now states, “contradicts” what a council employee said in a court case where he was prosecuted.

During the hearing in 2018, the council employee said they take the view that it [the council] is responsible for the “surface and margin” of all public roads “in as far as the roadside ditch”.

The herd owner says he can’t dry off his cows because they would get mastitis this time of year.

“If this isn’t sorted I won’t be in dairy next year. I’m going to continue milking them and putting the milk into the slurry tank until the time comes to dry them off.

“I’m not touching the hedge. It is not my responsibility to cut it. I’m being driven out of business because the council won’t take responsibility.

“They took away my rights to my own property in court and now they’re not taking responsibility for it,” he concluded.