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Farmers to invest in elite dairy herd

Dairy farmers are being asked to invest a minimum of €1,000 each in an elite herd being planned by ICBF and Teagasc.

A series of meetings to canvass farmers for their help in assembling a €1m war chest to fund the concept of a top EBI herd are due to be announced in the coming weeks.

The plan is to pull 140 of the top-ranked heifers in the country into a single research herd to examine issues such as fertility, greenhouse gas emissions and disease resistance. The first herd is to be 100pc Holstein Friesian but if it is a success, the organisers plan to broaden the programme into a second herd of crossbred animals.

Farmers will also be able to exchange suitable stock for the herd for a shareholding. It is hoped that shareholders will subsequently be able to exit with an enhanced return on their initial investment.

The initiative has been in development for the past 12 months but has run into difficulties because of the lack of financial support.

"We've been around the house looking for money from all the usual sources over the last year but it's just not there," Animal Health Ireland chairman Mike Magan told farmers at the Positive Farmers conference in Limerick.

ICBF's Andrew Crombie told the conference that the herd would be "absolutely pivotal" to the development of the dairy industry, adding: "This is a great opportunity for farmers to take ownership of their future and put together a herd that will be 7-8 years ahead of the best in the country."

Darragh McCullough

Indo Farming