Farmview is a need to protect an indigenous supply of grain. Being utterly dependent on imported grain is not a sound policy in terms of sustainability. We hear ever more regular utterances from milk processors of the need to consider moving the Irish dairy industry towards a GM-free model. There are both practical and cost considerations to be sorted out before any such move could be considered. While we have a grass-based production model, delivering over 80 percent of our milk output, there are critical periods of the year when cereal-based supplementation is required in the cow’s diet. GM-free cereals are scarce and expensive JULY 2018 www.irishfarmersmonthly.com or South America. Add to that, undependable weather conditions in our temperate climate and competitiveness is further eroded. The competitive edge provided to soya bean growers by GM plant technologies is yet another cost disadvantage under which Irish protein and cereal crop growers must operate. The economics of GM-free livestock production is totally contingent on the market being willing to pay a considerable premium for GM-free food. If that could be achieved then the significant extra costs of production could be carried, provided, of course, that the premium were passed back fully to the primary producer, where the increased production costs of GM-free food are borne. Neither of those hypotheses are likely. Food purchasers are increasingly looking for new standards but show little sign of being willing to pay for the increased costs associated with those standards. If that continues to be the case then the whole economic model for GM-free dairy, for instance, falls flat. It simply cannot be delivered by producers. There eventually comes a time when food producers must stop carrying all of the burden of increased production costs in order to appease those further up the food chain who demand more and pay the same, or less, for the enhanced product. The case for cooperation Referring back to grain supply, there is now very little grain for purchase on the world market that is GM-free and any that is available is considerably more expensive. There are even fewer sources of protein for inclusion in livestock rations that do not include some degree of GM produce. GM soya is now almost ubiquitious. If the demand for GM-free dairy makes it imperative that Ireland can guarantee at least some of its dairy products as GM-free, then there will have to be a lot of thought around how that can actually be achieved. One of the biggest challenges will be to source GM-free protein for dairy rations. The peas and beans grown indigenously could provide some of the tonnage required. However, without an exponential growth in protein plantings, that source would not nearly provide enough protein to supply our requirements. It is far from clear that a determined effort to increase the acreage of protein crops in Ireland would deliver the necessary tonnages. Those crops are quite dependent on weather conditions to achieve both yield and quality. While tillage farmers are willing to have a proportion of their crop profile sown to high protein crops, it is unlikely that they would risk having a high percentage devoted to proteins. Competing against GM There is also the issue of competition. The EU provides a protein crop subsidy for that very reason. Growing protein crops in Ireland is uncompetitive compared to growing comparable crops, especially soya, on the plains of North Returning to the independency of our various production sectors, the dairy sector is dependent on cattle farmers to purchase their surplus livestock. The increase in dairy cattle numbers makes this even more important. While the live export trade takes some of this surplus, it is Irish cattle farmers, in the main, who buy the male, and surplus female calves from the dairy farms. Efforts have been made, aside from the Jersey-X animals which have very limited commercial meat value, to upgrade the beefing potential of many of these calves by introducing Hereford and Angus terminal sires where possible. This is a prime example of two sectors working together, even if that is often neither fully realised nor acknowledged, to the benefit of both parties. 20