Farm Ireland

Friday 21 October 2016

Faraway fields are green for Grasstec

Published 03/02/2016 | 02:30

Farmers are keen to get their cattle out of the shed for a bigger proportion of their working lives.
Farmers are keen to get their cattle out of the shed for a bigger proportion of their working lives.

From helping farmers update maps over 150 years old, to advising Russians on getting more from grass, Cork's Grasstec has certainly come a long way from the one-man band it was when first established by Bertie Troy in 1996.

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The Mallow-based dairy services company is continuing its rapid growth as it seeks civil engineers to increase its workforce by another 10pc this year.

Mr Troy first realised there was an opportunity to provide mapping services to farmers during his college work-experience in New Zealand.

"Many Irish farmers are working with maps that are unaltered since the 1840s and 1850s," he explained.

"There is plenty of work in mapping, but I realised that in order to move on we had to start offering a bigger range of services," said Mr Troy.

"Expanding dairy farms, along with the increasing burden of planning permissions and nitrates to be satisfied by any major farm development, has fuelled our growth.

"We provide the same service to a growing number of UK dairy farmers, where we also facilitate discussion groups focused on grazing."

Mr Troy said that, while UK dairy farmers had traditionally eschewed a reliance on grazed grass, more and more were turning to the system to cope with ever lower milk prices.

High input systems

It seems that this appetite for grazing systems is on the move east, with Grasstec advising clients in France, Luxembourg, and even as far away as Russia.

"You might think that a Russian would look to New Zealand first for advice on maximising grazing, but we're just a four hour flight away, and our slightly colder climate here is closer to what they are dealing with. There's a big push to become self sufficient, and some Russians have access to huge amounts of grassland, but with no idea on setting up a grazing infrastructure.

"We're also picking up a bit of business on the Continent from dairy companies keen to get their farmers using more grass. Basically, they are trying to get the cows out of the shed for a bigger proportion of their working lives," said Mr Troy.

Despite these developments, one of the fastest growing areas of Grasstec's business is now sourcing livestock.

"We've about 5-6 people working full-time on this. We probably trade about 8,000 head a year, but it's growing all the time. About half of that is destined for export, with a growing appreciation of the value of EBI among grazers in the UK.

"It's become very popular in New Zealand because of biosecurity. It also tends to be much more time efficient for both the buyer and seller. We take a 3.5pc margin," added Mr Troy.

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