THE imminent threat to Ireland’s nitrates derogation was one of the big talking points at Lisavaird Co-op’s annual seminar recently.
Bernard Harris from the Dept of Agriculture pointed out that while Ireland’s water quality is quite good compared to the EU average, there has been a decline in that quality in recent years.
The current Nitrates Action Programme and Derogation finishes at the end of next year with two years to show improvement in our rivers, lakes and estuaries.
To that end Mr Harris outlined new measures being introduced for farmers in Derogation.
These include compulsory lining programmes, low emission slurry spreading, lower protein levels in ration and increased use of clover and grass measurement.
Joe Burke, meat and livestock manager with Bord Bia gave a presentation on producing quality beef from the dairy herd.
He pointed out that calf registrations of the traditional (Hereford and Angus) breeds had increased by 300,000 head over the past number of years – primarily as a result of the increase in the dairy herd.
He emphasised the crucial importance of calf exports (200,000 head in 2019) to managing the calf welfare issue for the coming calving season and indicated that improvements in lairage facilities in France should help maintain this trade.
In terms of research, there is need for a dedicated dairy beef centre, a dairy beef breeding index and further work on sexed semen technology.
The final speaker on the night was John Holland from Carbery who presented an overview of that company’s ongoing investment in the plant in Ballineen and the rationale for same.
The principal drivers for the development were increased milk supply and the need for extra processing capacity, the need for product and market diversification following Brexit, and the desire to follow the growing markets for cheese particularly into China and south East Asia.
Diversification into different cheese types, in particular mozzarella, for the fast-growing pizza market is a key component of the strategy as is the allocation of resources to develop Asian markets.
Also central to the strategy is ongoing investment in product development and of course people development.
Mr Holland emphasised to the need for continuing focus on milk quality, as well as vigilance around on-farm issues such as animal welfare and the environment.