Technology the key to growing Ireland's export potential
Irish farmers are one of the world leaders when it comes to efficient production but we have an opportunity to grow further and explore new markets such as China, using technology.

A significant shift in mindset has occurred towards a more technology-driven industry with a system of reduced labour and in some cases partial autonomy.

We are producing more food from the same amount of land due to technological advances and we have the ability to improve that further.

The farmers who are working smarter rather than harder by utilising technology are reaping the benefits of an improved lifestyle and increased profits. However, farmers have to justify investment and ask themselves if this piece of technology can improve their lifestyle, their profit margin, or both in many cases.

As a result of our high production levels, we are an exporting nation and we need to look at what markets we supply and China is central to that.

In this focus, Thomas Hubert profiles retail business Hema Fresh and how they market their products to ensure full traceability.

Phelim O’Neill takes a look at the growing influence of the Chinese online retail system from the Irish Farmers Journal’s recent trade mission alongside government delegates.

Technology

We also take a look at a new and upcoming business, Apisprotect in Cork aiming to monitor beehives using sensor technology. This development will have huge implications for farming as we depend on bees for our crops to pollinate and also the opportunities this technology presents to increase production.

We are living in the smartphone era and over the last decade different apps have been developed to further progress agriculture. We take a look at the latest apps in this Focus, such as fertiliser spreader calibrators and breeding assistance.

Now more than ever we need to look at how technology can help farm safety. To do this we combined some of the handiest apps and devices that can achieve this from the online risk assessment tool to the farm safety app for kids.

BEEF 2018: what'll be there?
The four main stands are where the key technical messages will be discussed at BEEF 2018 next week. Matthew Halpin takes a look at what will be covered at each stand on the day

Stand 1: Key performance indicators for suckler-calf-to-weanling production

Teagasc researchers and beef specialists will outline what the key profitability drivers are for suckler beef production in the country. This stand will firstly outline the three key variables which support a profitable suckler system, which are grass utilisation, stocking rate and individual animal performance.

The team will then explain the measures used to quantify levels of efficiency on suckler beef farms. These measures are known as key performance indicators (KPIs) and Teagasc has identified five indicators essential for farmers benchmarking their own operations. These performance indicators are broken into two groups – reproductive measures and productive measures – and will be further explained on the day.

The research on these five KPIs carried out by Teagasc is extremely relevant for suckler farmers as it allows a monetary value, in the form of extra euro net margin per cow, to be placed on efficiency gains made in both reproductive and productive areas.

The study compared high performance commercial farms with the national average farms and found that management to achieve certain key performance targets can substantially improve profitability on the average suckler farm in Ireland. Finally, the research emphasises this conclusion by outlining the main practices that all suckler farmers can firstly identify and subsequently act upon in order to improve the net margin within their own farm gates.

Key Performance Indicators for dairy calf to beef systems

Stand 2: Key performance indicators for dairy calf-to-beef systems

Teagasc researchers have been working towards defining a set of KPIs by which efficiencies within dairy calf-to-beef systems can be identified and quantified. A look into dairy-calf-to-beef systems revealed that male Holstein-Friesian and early maturing Angus and Hereford dairy-cross calves represent 85% of the calves available from the dairy herd for beef production. This stand will explain that, although dairy calf-to-beef systems have the potential to be profitable, key targets must be achieved to ensure high levels of animal performance throughout the production cycle and in turn, return high profitability.

The team of researchers will present four key performance areas for successful dairy beef production. The first is calf rearing, and the correct nutritional, health and environmental factors will be discussed to help farmers maximise weight gain and minimise losses in this crucial period of a calf’s life. Next is performance during the first grazing season where grazing management right through to parasite treatment will be discussed. The first indoor winter is also a key performance period, and the optimum silage and concentrate feeding levels will be detailed. The second grazing season and subsequent finishing period will be the final key period outlined, which includes dietary and weight-gain factors.

The Teagasc team will explain that when each of the KPIs are achieved, farm profit can be maximised. Another key message will be that dairy calf-to-beef is not limited to just one system.

Genetics create the potential; management realises that potential

Stand 3: Genetics create the potential; management realises that potential

In simple terms, this stand focuses on the idea that the performance of an animal is a function of the previous generations of breeding of that animal as well as the management to which the individual and its dam has been exposed. Teagasc’s Aidan Murray and Donagh Berry will present their findings on how genetics and management combine to play a critical role in the performance of an animal. Genetics can contribute to many performance traits, the main being carcase weights and carcase grades, but they also contribute to factors such as calving interval and farm replacement rates.

This stand will answer many farmers’ questions in relation to genetics within their own herds and how to understand the €uro-Star system properly.

Farmers will be guided through problems such as star indexes moving and the difference between terminal and maternal traits of sires and stock.

This stand, however, will also assert that full performance efficiency cannot be achieved by genetics alone. Currently, many of the key reproduction efficiency targets are not being met at farm level and the researchers will outline how better planning and management practices could greatly improve this situation and unlock more of the genetic potential within a herd.

Factors such as age at calving and calving spread will be looked at, as well as the significant benefits that AI can bring to a farmer at moderate extra cost.

Capturing the potential of grazed grass on Irish beef farms

Stand 4: Capturing the potential of grazed grass on Irish beef farms

In Ireland, profitable beef production is based on the provision of sufficient quantities of high-quality pasture to produce quality beef at a minimum cost. Teagasc has found that every extra tonne of grass DM/ha utilised on the farm is worth €105/ha. Furthermore, every additional day at grass in the spring can save up to €1.54/animal in feed costs. Thinking about these figures, it is a no-brainer that every farmer should look to maximise the growth and utilisation of grass on their farm.

This stand outlines how farmers can do just that. The Teagasc team of Michael Egan and Karen Dukelow have researched the key grassland management areas that farmers should focus on. Broken up into two parts, the first section deals with improving soil fertility on Irish beef farms. The correct soil index levels of phosphorous, potassium and lime are essential to soil fertility and this research outlines how each nutrient can be developed within the soil. Grazing management is the second part and the presentation will discuss right and wrong management practices in the spring, mid-season and autumn. There are many tools farmers can use to aid grazing management, such as a spring rotation planner, a grass wedge generated through grass measuring and an autumn 60:40 planner. Clover will also be touched upon, and the successful incorporation of clover into a sward will be outlined. Managing a farm to produce more grass requires attention to detail and good grazing management – this stand can help farmers learn the skills and information necessary to do so.

Livestock Demonstrations at BEEF 2018
Adam Woods takes a look at the joint livestock demo that will take place at BEEF 2018

The main livestock demonstration will take place at the end of the technology villages at BEEF 2018 and is a joint demo between Teagasc, the Irish Farmers Journal and ICBF.

The live demo will focus on choosing replacement heifers and calving at two years of age successfully.

Choosing replacement heifers can be a divisive task on beef farms with the age-old dilemma of pairing good looks with good genetics.

Part of this will be on exactly that and using all the tools available to choose the next generation of suckler cows on your farm. Using the replacement index as a tool in this process is very important and Chris Daly from ICBF will speak about the importance of reliability and looking at sub indices in making a successful selection.

Two-year-old calving has been proven to be a key driver of profitability on beef farms and a number on animals including maiden/in-calf heifers, first-calving cows and mature cows will be on display at the demo.

Teagasc advisers Alan Nolan, Mayo, and Gary Fisher, Donegal, will answer any questions from farmers on two-year-old calving and present some important points to achieve success.

The demo area has seating for 150 people and promises to be an interactive stand with good discussions taking place around animal breeding.

Livestock Demo Details

Speakers

  • Adam Woods, beef editor, Irish Farmers Journal.
  • Chris Daly, ICBF.
  • Gary Fisher, Teagasc, Donegal.
  • Alan Nolan, Teagasc, Mayo.
  • Demo Times

  • 11.30am
  • 12.30pm
  • 1.30pm
  • 2.30pm