'The bigger herds are driving the move towards crossbreeding'
The rapid increase in herd size is now driving the agenda at farm level.
The abolition of quotas has spurred a big jump in cow numbers nationally, and farmers are focused on simplifying the job in every way possible, according to Dovea's Kerry sales representative, Tim Fitzmaurice.
"Ease of calving has probably replaced fertility as the number one objective for farmers. They're looking for bulls with less than 2pc calving difficulty, but with high reliabilities of over 90pc, especially for their heifers.
"There's only so many hours in the day, and labour is expensive. While genomic bulls now account for 85pc of sales, farmers can only use them safely on their cows.
"The bigger herds are also driving a gradual move towards crossbreeding. The message from Teagasc is that the crossbred cow lasts an extra lactation in the herd, so that ease of management is an attraction.
"We're also seeing more demand for the Norwegian Red, with lads looking for the three-way cross. I've also seen a bigger interest in beef bulls this year, and again farmers are looking to AI to ensure that they can guarantee easy calving if they are using them on their heifers.
"There's a real concern that there is too much dairy stock, and that with increasing fertility levels that there just isn't the same demand any more for freshly calved heifers.
"The beef calf brings in cash-flow earlier, which is important in a year like this. And it can simplify the operation further by allowing the farmer to offload beef calves and concentrate on devoting land to his dairy cows."