Teagasc aiming to double number of contract-reared dairy heifers
A doubling of the number of dairy heifers that are contract reared is in the offing, with Teagasc aiming to extend its discussion group network nationally.
It is estimated that 17,000 dairy heifers are currently contract reared across the country, which is just a fraction of the roughly 400,000 that come into herd each year as replacements or to cover expansion.
However, Teagasc now aims to target growth in the sector by establishing 16 dedicated discussion groups across the country for farmers involved in contract rearing.
The initiative is being headed up by Teagasc's Tom Curran, who explained that the move was a recognition of the level of farmer interest in the business.
"There are a lot of frustrated drystock farmers who are looking for an enterprise that offers a profitable return," he explained.
Mr Curran pointed out that while the top operators in the suckler-to-weanling business made up to €260/ha, the average return was a €30/ha loss.
He said good farmers could make up to €430/ha out of contract rearing - based on the 2016 profit monitor results.
The new discussion group network aims to offer support to farmers who are already involved in contract-rearing and to encourage more entrants by driving profit through improved management.