Sunday 25 September 2016

Land restrictions will limit potential for 'mega-herds'

Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30

While most farmers can only look on in awe at what the Brownes have built up on their farm in Cork, outsiders will ask if this new benchmark in scale is a sign of things to come.

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"I know that people get worried that this is the start of factory farming or whatever, but the reality is that we have to look after our cows if we want to get good yields from them," says Simon Browne.

"In a way our incremental growth here over the years avoided too many complications with planning.

"But it would certainly be harder if you went to a local authority looking to set up a 1,000 cow herd from scratch, or even from a 100 or 200 cow base," says Tom.

And with estimates suggesting that additional cows, even in established systems, require an investment of at least €4,000 per animal, the fact is that only farmers with big fire-power are able to finance these type of large-scale operations involving big land banks.

A combination of luck and shrewdness has allowed Tom Browne to build a substantial Single Farm Payment that has helped the development of the farm.

Platform

It is also testimony to the Browne's ability to get on with their neighbours that they managed to pull together such a substantial block of land to form a milking platform for the herd.

While there are rumours of other 1,000 cow herds being planned in Meath and Tipperary, these types of set-ups will remain the exception to the rule.

It is unlikely that 'investors' are going to target dairy farming for major investments given the challenges of pulling together big enough land-blocks to facilitate such large operations.

The requirement for a massive milking platform could be side-stepped through buying in the feed requirements and housing the herd year-round.

But the profitability of this type of a system in Ireland will always be significantly lower than the classic 100pc spring- grazing system that dominates the Irish dairying scene.

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