Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Darragh McCullough: Moorepark's infectious optimism

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The enthusiasm was palpable at the Teagasc headquarters in Moorepark last week.

Estimates of attendance at the dairy open day varied from the conservative 7,000 to the exuberant 10,000. But one thing was clear – the dairy sector has the self-belief that it is going places in a hurry.

The number of bright pink faces by the end of the day was evidence enough of the glorious weather. The recent good spell has allowed farmers to get back on schedule with work for the first time in many months.

With decent pits of first-cut silage on most farms, and milk and beef prices near record highs, farmers were in the humour to relax for a day out.

They were also able to benefit from the vast array of cutting-edge research from what is probably one of the most focused farm advisory research organisations in the world right now.

Dairy farmers often take for granted the fact that many of the brightest and most motivated agricultural researchers in the country gravitate towards their sector. It is the envy of farmers not only in other less significant sectors, but also farmers in many other countries.

The industry has realised that in order to cope with the expansion planned from 2015, it will need to attract high quality into the sector.

Hence, an array of young, successful and highly motivated individuals that have carved out careers for themselves milking cows was presented to hundreds of farmers last Wednesday afternoon.

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It is always refreshing to hear how young people without farms of their own are able to get to a stage where they can buy farms. New Zealand is the usual source of these stories but it may not be long before we see similar situations develop in Ireland. Leasing, equity partnerships and a passion for milking cows all appear to be essential ingredients for this to happen.

There's no doubt that Irish farming sons and daughters are able to cut it with the best.

New Zealand's sharemilker of the year, Enda Hawe, left Kilkenny 12 years ago but returned to tell his story at Moorepark.

However, providing opportunities to keep the most talented here would surely be for the good of the sector and Ireland Inc.

This excitement is a far cry from the underbelly of the dairy and wider farming sector, where the shadow of the recent fodder crisis still hangs.

Tales of cheap purchases at marts and quite desperation among those who are finally opening all the bills that amassed over the last number of months are far too common for comfort.

Those with the ability and resources to drive on production over the coming years should be facilitated in every way possible. But those who are not so lucky should not be forgotten during the roller-coaster years ahead.

Indo Farming