Technology turns tide for farmers
In the 12 months since the last National Ploughing Championships, Irish cattle farmers have experienced extreme highs and extreme lows. Appalling weather, the worst fodder crisis in living memory and the turmoil of the horsemeat scandal were the low points, but the tide has turned, with demand for Irish beef soaring and new markets opening up for our premium grass-fed beef.
One of the most exciting developments in the livestock industry has been the successful trial of sexed semen in the dairy herd by ICBF, Teagasc, the AI companies and other partners.
The potential of this is enormous, allowing dairy farmers to add value to their bull calves by selectively breeding beef-type bulls instead of dairy-bred bulls.
Paul Finnerty, chief executive of ABP Food Group, processor of more than 1m cattle annually, said sexed semen offered a great opportunity to the beef industry.
"It will allow us to reach a position where, instead of factories receiving a by-product that is not fit for purpose, we can use science to breed dairy replacements and focus on producing beef animals to supply the growing beef business," he said.
Science is also starting to take hold in the sheep business, too, with farmers adopting the €uroStar and LambPlus tools to help them make management decisions based on financial return.
As farmers stroll around the many livestock stands in Ratheniska this week, the focus will be on value for money and profitability more than ever before.