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Independent view: Road Maps are a start in bid to hit 2020 targets

On Friday, Teagasc published a series of templates for farmers to follow in their quest to reach the ambitious targets set out by Food Harvest 2020.

The Teagasc sectoral Road Maps point to some major changes in the structure of Irish agriculture, including a 46pc increase in the area of land sown to tillage and a massive jump in perennial energy crops such as willow and miscanthus from just 3,000ha to 70,000ha.

Our suckler herd will continue to decline by 14,000hd a year and the number of beef farms will fall by 100,000 to 90,000 by 2018, Teagasc has predicted.

Pressure from dairy and tillage expansion will be a major factor in the continued suckler decline but for the farmers who remain in the sector, a move towards bull beef and specialist production of high-quality weanlings for export will create a more efficient and higher output beef sector.

The analysis points to a welcome reversal of the declining sheep flock but highlights the need for hill sheep farming to be supported for its environmental benefits rather than its commercial potential.

Environmental issues such as nutrient efficiency, water quality and gaseous emissions will affect all sectors, while the focus in the food sector will be on health-enhancing food products, gut health research, new dairy product development and the infant milk formula sector.


The Road Maps, which cover dairy, suckler beef, pigs, sheep, tillage, forestry, horticulture, food and the environment, summarise the expected changes in the shape and size of each individual sector and the policy issues facing producers in each enterprise.

More importantly, however, they set out specific targets for the technical performance required at farm level to meet these targets over the course of the next seven years.

Where Food Harvest 2020 was more about broad brush strokes -- a 50pc increase in dairy output, a 20pc lift in beef and sheep production and a 50pc hike in pigmeat output -- the Road Maps concentrate on the detail at farm level that will be required to make the Food Harvest 2020 targets a reality.

For example, the Road Map for dairying sets out 20 performance targets that farmers must reach by 2018, including targets for milk yield, milk solids, somatic cell count, replacement rates, feeding and fertiliser rates.

Specific targets help to focus the mind and are something that farmers can analyse themselves every year to help stay on track for 2020.

While reality will no doubt diverge from the plan in many ways over the next nine years, the Teagasc Road Maps are a welcome starting point.

Indo Farming