Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Peter Hynes: 'Processors need to look at developing a veal industry'

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Peter Hynes

It's that time of year when all eyes switch to the breeding season. We have our team of bulls ordered, six in total and all of them genomic sires with a bull panel average of €330 EBI.

It just goes to show how far genetics has come in a few years.

Cows seem to be in great condition and heats seem to be extremely good. We've seen cows bulling 15 days after calving so we should be well set up for a good breeding season.

I've read many articles in the last few weeks on sexed semen.

Some are saying sales will increase this year, but I've spoken to two people in the industry who say they've seen no increase in sales to date.

Currently we use approximately 5,000 doses of sexed semen in Ireland so sales would need to double in order for a sexing machine to be based in Ireland.

Now I can assure you I'm a advocate for sexed semen - it works, but in a controlled situation. We've used sexed semen quite successfully in the past and we also use it on all pedigree Jerseys.

Straws must be thawed at a precise 37C, straws need to be dealt with individually, cows need to be spot on and timing of insemination needs to be a lot more accurate.

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Ask yourself does all that happen with conventional semen in a busy breeding season?

Then there is the issue of genetics. As I mentioned, our bull panel averages €330 EBI this year, but that would reduce to €280 if I used sexed and I for one won't compromise on genetic gain.

The knock on consequence if the dairy industry goes the route of sexed semen plus beef semen is an increase in beef calves born in Ireland at a time when we all know the beef industry is under pressure.

Make no mistake - dairy farmers require short gestation and ease of calving.

We use beef sires, but while calving ease isn't a big issue we certainly can't get the gestation length we are achieving with Holstein.

Ten months from now, Calving 2020 will kick off. Prices for bull calves were poor in 2019 and there was lots of discussion on lairage, poor weather hampering shippers and there is always the question of how many years will live exportation of calves continue.

I don't believe the national dairy herd should be compromising on the six-week calving rate.

If anything this will tighten further year on year.

So what baffles me is why has our industry has not moved towards developing a veal industry.

Of course we don't consume much veal, but then neither do the Dutch - yet they have a veal industry worth €2bn and they export product across Europe and as far as China and Japan.

This begs the question as to why the Irish meat industry has failed to diversify and tap into new markets.

Farmers shouldn't have to develop a veal market - our processors should be chasing down these markets which in turn would solve an issue for the dairy industry and develop new opportunities for our beef farmers.

Grass growth

Grass growth hasn't reached any highs yet. We grew 46kg/dm/ha in the last week with the cold north-westerly wind holding it back.

Our demand is 51kg/ha/day with a platform cover of 1,139kg/dm/ha.

Cows are on 2kg of a 14pc dairy nut producing a steady 1.95kg milk solids per cow.

We have 80ac of first cut silage closed and we went with protected urea on the silage ground in the form of 23-2-12 +6%S ,

Sulpher is often the forgotten nutrient on silage ground, but it can greatly increase yields by up to one tonne dm/ha so its certainly worth spreading it.

I'll leave you with some thoughts on milk price.

I think we were all baffled and disgusted to see the big three co-ops drop milk price for February.

The Ornua PPI has been very stable, EU spot prices seemed consistent and the GDT has had eight consecutive rises.

No doubt the threat of Brexit is the background excuse, but I don't buy that.

Our processor dropped the price 999 days after the Brexit referendum, so I think they've had time to prepare for whatever happens on that front.

Since the latest price announcement, we've since seen another GDT increase, futures seem strong in Europe and the US are forecasting a strong 2019 for dairy.

The pressure is clearly on Irish dairy processors to deliver a strong March milk price and deliver for Irish dairy farmers in 2019.

Anything short of this shouldn't be taken lying down by farmers.

Peter Hynes farms with his wife Paula in Aherla, Co Cork

Indo Farming