Irish farmers ready to milk French connection
Crossbreeders cashing in on new wave of Gallic interest in our dairy heifers
A first for Ireland is taking place this week as a load of high genetic merit dairy heifers travel across the sea to France.
Traditionally, we have been large importers of French genetics, either through bulls from the French Eurogene programme, or high genetic merit Holstein cows. The trade reached a peak during the early Noughties in the aftermath of BSE as farmers looking to restock depopulated herds scoured the continent for what were then seen as the most profitable genetics available.
However, the pioneering work of Teagasc and ICBF over the intervening period has developed a new type of confidence in Irish dairy genetics, especially among those committed to the low-cost, spring-calving system first perfected in New Zealand.
Edern Coadou is set to break the mould in his local region near Brest in France's north-western Brittany. The young man has just bought 45 in-calf crossbred dairy heifers from David Clarke's Mullingar transport and sourcing company. While Mr Clarke's business has grown steadily over the last number of years through the export of high EBI dairy cattle to UK farms, this is the first time he has ever sold stock to France.
"He got in touch with me through the website, which will demonstrate to you the power the internet. But I'm really excited about this since I think these stock are going to be the guinea pigs - if they impress, they could open the flood gates in a region that is expected to increase milk production just as fast as here over the coming decade," said Mr Clarke.
Inspired by his time spent working on dairy farms in New Zealand, Mr Coadou is unencumbered by the traditions dominating most French farms.
"I think there will be a lot of curiosity from my neighbours about these cows and possibly even some of them would like to see me fail. The French farmer believes that a good cow must produce a lot of milk. Some of my neighbours have robots with their cows confined 24 hours a day. I plan to go organic with a low-cost, spring calving set-up."