The challenges of island farming are not unlike those on the mainland - there’s feed costs, as well as the general costs of inputs.

According to chair of the Arranmore IFA branch off Donegal John McCafferty, the main challenge faced by farmers on the island today is transport.

“Our biggest cost is the transport of our animals to and from the mainland,” he says.


“The majority of our fodder comes from the mainland. There is still a small bit of hay cut on the island, but very little compared to 30 or 40 years ago.

"The quality of the land is an issue. We’re nearly all sheep farming and the mountain pastures have a lot of heather and ferns.

"Rushes are also causing problems. Invasive species, most notably Japanese knotweed, are also proving problematic,” McCafferty adds.

“We’re trying to cut back on spraying, but it’s difficult. I don’t think it’s an issue that’s being tackled properly.”

Stock on the island

Nearly all the stock on the island are sheep, with only half a dozen cattle left, he told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“There’s in the region of 1,500 to 2,000 sheep here, and a mix of breeds.

“There’s between 30 and 40 farmers here on the island, and nearly all of us farm sheep,” McCafferty says.

IFA on Arranmore

In terms of his role as chair of the Arranmore branch of the IFA, McCafferty says that he carries forward any concerns that farmers have on the island.

“At the moment, I’m working on getting a machinery bank for the island so we can share machinery and equipment, as we don’t earn enough from farming on the island to buy all our own machines.”

Future of island farming

“There are less farmers there now than there ever was and, as a result, there’s a lot of wild land on the island.

"We make our income from four or five different streams to make up our yearly income, from farming to fishing, in comparison to farmers on the mainland,” he explains.

“Depopulation is a rising issue on the island, so we would love to see some younger farmers coming in.”

IFA president Tim Cullinan paid a visit to farmers on the island two weeks ago and was the first president of the organisation to do so.

“It was great to see Tim make the effort to come out, especially when he’s based so far from us.

“It was great for the local representatives to come out too, to see what local farmers do and take our issues on board. I hope we can work together in the future to push these issues forward,” he concluded.