Sunday 26 January 2020

Chinese to get first-hand taste of Irish dairy farming practice

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A WORKING Irish dairy farm is to be established on the Steppes of Inner Mongolia in a move that will take farming methods from here to the birthplace of Genghis Khan.

The decision to develop the demonstration farm is the result of a ground-breaking agreement between UCD and leading Chinese dairy producer Dairy United.

The farm will be located 40km from Hohhot, which is described as the capital of China's dairy region, and will use Irish dairy equipment and management practices.

It is envisaged that the facility -- which is planned to be operational by August next year -- will become a research centre for the dairy industry where Chinese farmers will be trained in disciplines such as grassland management, improved genetics, animal husbandry, withdrawal periods for antibiotics in milk and herd nutrition.

The initiative, which has the backing of the regional government in Inner Mongolia, will also involve UCD working with smaller communal holdings at Hulunbuir, around 1,000km north of Hohhot.

Dairy United has total assets of €75m and operates 151 dairy farms with some 2,000 cows on each, supported by more than 2,000 hectares of forage production land.

The agreement was announced in Shanghai yesterday, where a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between UCD and Dairy United.

The agreement has the potential to deliver multi-million euro contracts for farm equipment, machinery and services. It also envisages collaborative research projects, the provision of education and training services.

Cathy Holahan of Enterprise Ireland, who has been working on the project for the last two years, said she was thrilled.

She said the new farm would create "a trade corridor" to facilitate the introduction of Irish exporters to the Inner Mongolian region and to the wider dairy sector in China.

Challenging

Ms Holahan likened the development to the Irish pub concept, where patrons got a taste of Ireland.

She said the Hohhot farm would operate in a similar fashion, giving Chinese farmers the opportunity to see first-hand how Irish dairy units are run.

This will be challenging as the temperatures can fall to -15C during the winter in Hohhot and to -40C Hulunbuir. This means that livestock are housed for up to six months each year.

"The Chinese want a full solution and this farm will offer just that," Ms Holahan said.

Under the agreement, UCD will deliver a programme in quality milk production, while the Farm Relief Service will train dairy staff in Ireland, who will then return and coach field staff in Mongolia.

The agreement also covers the potential for training veterinarians and agricultural scientists in UCD.

UCD also plans to develop a module in intensive dairy production systems based at Dairy United.

Irish Independent

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