background image
4
DECEMBER 2018
Upfront
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Start the New Year with the IGA Dairy Conference
The 2019 Irish Grassland Association Annual Dairy
Conference, sponsored by Yara, takes place on Wednesday
January 9th. Staying in the south west of the country, the
Charleville Park Hotel is the venue for the second year
in succession. Since the abolition of milk quotas, the
rapid expansion of the dairy industry has resulted in an
increasingly diverse range of systems of milk production.
The severe drought in the summer of 2018 forced many
farmers to purchase twice or three times as much feed
and forage as normal and question the sustainability of
their current dairy system. To address these issues, the
Conference is profiling dairy farms operating profitable
grass based systems of milk production and asks
whether producing more milk is it always the answer.
The conference will also discuss the grass, fertiliser and
forage reserve targets required for sustainable grass based
dairying. Included in the speaker line-up are Welsh farmer
Rhys James and Corkman Denis O'Donovan, who will
describe how they operate their dairy farms and how their
systems of milk production have evolved over the years.
Agricultural consultant Mike Brady will complement
the two farmer speakers by reviewing the common
characteristics of his most profitable dairy farmer clients.
New Zealand based John Roche will be on board as
will Teagasc's Richard O' Brien, Grassland Agro's Stan
Lalor and Greenfield manager David Fogarty. The pre-
conference `chat' will feature Jason Hawkins the new boss
at Carbery, in conversation with Matt Dempsey.
Beef Plan Group highlights
farmer frustration
The emergence of another beef farmer repre-
sentative grouping highlights the frustration of
thousands of cattle farmers at their inability to
achieve profits in their businesses. An 86-point
plan to rebalance the skewed beef pricing
divvy-out between producers, processors and
retailers, as well as addressing many of the other
anomalies that prevent cattle producers from
getting a fairer deal, is welcome. However, it
remains to be seen whether this new group,
which appears to have caught the imaginations
of several thousand cattle farmers, will deliver
any more than is sought and delivered by other
representative organisations. EU legislation is
now in place to allow primary producers to group
together in order to secure more price leverage.
Whether sufficient numbers of producers would
buy into this concept and have the discipline to
withhold and deliver cattle in large numbers as
required to maximise price, at similar weights and
grades, remains to be seen. The next trick would
be to ensure that some, at least, of this enhanced
end price percolates down to the other players
in the system, including the store and suckler
producers. Meanwhile calls by Donie Shine's Irish
Family-Farming Rights Group for the so-called
`four movements restriction' to be lifted could
just result in even more people trying to extract a
margin from the ultimate beef carcase.
Broadband, broadleaves, broadminds
We noticed an interesting tagline from a US energy company
promoting energy awareness.
It simply reads, `If just 20 per cent of all US households paid
their bills online, in one year we could save almost two million
trees." Maybe we could learn from this simple initiative. All
the more reason to accelerate the Broadband Action Plan and
give every home and business in the country the option of
fast, affordable broadband connections. Whether it is fiber or
wireless technology or a combination of both, the technology
for universal connectivity is there. All that is missing is the
political will and the a realisation that this is an investment
that will deliver economic, social and environmental value. On
the subject of trees, while the Irish Government has ambitious
plans to increase afforestation in Ireland, last year it missed
its 9,000 ha. target by over twenty percent. Tree planting has
been pigeon-holed into commercial, industrial scale, mostly
coniferous plantations. There must be room for encouraging
small scale, landscape-enhancing planting of broadleaves. A
tree for every cow? That could be a start. With the probable
demise of the ubiquitous Ash from our hedgerows, it could be a
good time to plant a tree - or a grove of trees.