Row still raging over crossbreds
Debate hots up on whether herd switch really more profitable
Dairy experts are at loggerheads over what is the ideal cow for Irish farms in the future. Crossbred cows are easily the most profitable, despite the fact that the farmer will often end up getting the bull calves shot, according to well-known dairy farmer Michael Murphy.
"Crossbred herds are the most naturally suited cow for an Irish grass-based system," the Cork-based farmer maintained, despite the fact that the bull calves from his crossbred cows were often completely worthless, and he relied on the local knackery to shoot and dispose of them.
Mr Murphy, who runs dairy farms in Ireland, Chile, New Zealand and the US, admitted that having to shoot worthless bull calves could be psychologically damaging to a farmer.
"Most dairy farmers really like their animals and their whole training is to keep their animals alive. It's better to leave the job to the knackeries. But farmers should not get hung up on the value of the bull calf."
However, the call for more farmers to consider crossbreeding has been slammed by the CEO of the country's biggest dairy society. A switch to crossbred cows would decimate the Irish beef industry, ruin farmers' cash-flow and create massive problems in years to come for production levels and access to land, according to the Irish Holstein Friesian Association's (IHFA) Charles Gallagher.
"Crossbred cows will only sell as canners for maybe €280, while you'll be lucky to sell the bull calf at all," he said. "This would have terrible consequences for January and February cash-flow on a spring- calving farm in the months when it is needed most.
"And you can't fatten a Jersey, so it would be a disaster for the beef industry if we switched wholesale to Jersey crosses."