The Ballydoyle-based multi-classic winner said yesterday that the number of “bleeders” among the horse population on the training establishment was down 40% to almost zero since rendering stopped at the Castleblake site four years ago, while staff turnover was also down and infections to horses had fallen.
Mr O’Brien was speaking at an oral hearing into a proposal by Green Organics Energy (GOE) to develop an animal byproducts treatment plant/bioenergy facility less than 3km from his Ballydoyle base. The site earmarked by GOE for the plant was formerly used for rendering.
“I don’t trust any proposal from these people,” he told the hearing in direct evidence. “If it got the go-ahead and there was a breakdown, we knew how bad it was before, but I’ve no doubt in my mind it would make our business impossible.”
The smell and emissions from the National ByProducts rendering plant at Castleblake, until its closure four years ago, caused staff turnover of 30%-40%, according to Mr O’Brien, while absenteeism was 25% higher than it is now, “because of flus, viruses, respiratory infections”.
He said “nobody” could tell the effect that emissions from the proposed bioenergy plant would have on the horses.
Recent champions trained by Mr O’Brien at Ballydoyle include Dylan Thomas, Soldier of Fortune, George Washington, Galileo, and Rock of Gibraltar.
Giving an insight into the attention to detail employed at Ballydoyle in the pursuit of results, Mr O’Brien spoke of facilities that are “second to none” at the south Tipperary complex.
The horses have their own individual paddocks where no artificial sprays are used; monthly tested drinking water from wells sunk in Ballydoyle; hay saved and tested on site; locally made straw; four or five covers each for different weathers; a swimming pool, sauna and spa; air filtration in each box; individual tack to prevent cross-contamination; and at least one handler each.
“The reason we do all these things is because every second matters at the end of a race and a second can often mean the difference between winning and finishing fifth, which, financially, can be massive,” he said.
Manager of Coolmore’s operations in south Tipperary Christy Grassick said that 25% of the national bloodstock industry’s turnover arises in the area.
“The continued success of Ballydoyle and Coolmore on the racetrack arises from the fact that south Tipperary is a prime location for the breeding, rearing and training of the thoroughbred.”
He said that Coolmore has grave concerns over the planning application by GOE and that the proposed plant “represents a risk to the success of Ballydoyle and Coolmore Stud, and is unacceptable”.
Mr Grassick also invited An Bord Pleanála inspector Derek Daly to visit Ballydoyle and Coolmore “to enable you to see for yourself the nature of the operations carried out and the basis for our serious concerns”.