Fodder concerns put spotlight on contract-rearing
Drystock farmers and dairy farmers are being urged to explore the possibility of entering into mutually beneficial contract-rearing agreements.
The fodder shortage in the south and east of the country in contrast to the relatively good grass-growing year experienced in the north-west could drive the demand for contract-rearing, either on a short-term over-winter basis or a long-term agreement.
A number of drystock farmers in the Sligo/Leitrim area have set up a discussion group, initially to investigate the potential of contract-rearing dairy heifers as a means of increasing stocking rate and increasing the profitability of their farms.
The group consists of 18 farmers, 15 of whom are currently rearing heifers, with the other three in the process of drawing up contracts.
In total they are rearing 1,500 heifers, with plans to increase to 2,300 in 2019.
One group member, Neill Boland, participates in the Aurivo Profitability Programme, and another, Michael Fitzgerald, runs the Teagasc Ballyhaise contract-rearing unit.
So, what are the key issues that facilitate a smooth-running, long-term heifer rearing arrangement between a dairy farmer and a contract-rearer?
The first, and most difficult, step is to find a suitable candidate, a person you can trust, and build a working relationship with.