The Irish Farmers Journal understands the board of Munster Bovine (formerly known as Munster AI) is looking at the possibility of initiating an “independent review process” into spending by the company on technology.

There has been ongoing disquiet and rumours among farmers and shareholders of the three owner co-ops about spending on the new FarmOps app developed by Munster Bovine. The three shareholders of Munster Bovine are Dairygold Co-op, Shinagh Estates representing the west Cork co-ops, and Kerry Agribusiness.

Reportedly over €2.5m has been spent developing the app and building in-house resources on software development.

When contacted this week by the Irish Farmers Journal to substantiate the rumours, the chair of Munster Bovine, Cork dairy farmer Richard Hinchion, was not available for comment.

At the last round of Dairygold regional meetings, Munster Bovine CEO Kevin Coffey presented figures showing that the capital budget for the IT project was revised upwards in June 2019 by approximately 17% as the project got more complex, and the software developer rate moved up by 10% in 2019.

We understand that when questioned by Dairygold farmers, the Munster boss would not reveal the full extent of the investment, seemingly suggesting it was the equivalent of a farmer investing in 100 acres of land.

Workplace relations

Separate to the IT issues, a number of Munster Bovine field staff have been in dispute with management.

This dispute over terms and conditions of employment has already been to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and we understand is returning to the WRC again.

Canning bull issue

According to sources close to Munster Bovine, 80% of the farmers affected by the poor conception rates of the Holstein Friesian AI sire Cloonigney Canning last year have agreed to compensation terms presented by Munster Bovine.

The other 20% are reportedly holding out for a better deal, with some closing out deals in the last number of days.

The Irish Farmers Association is working with a group of farmers who have been affected by the issue that are not happy with the terms of the compensation.

We understand the young sire Canning was insured under a policy held by the National Cattle Breeding Centre (NCBC) but, as yet, no settlement has been concluded between NCBC and the insurance company. The NCBC is a joint venture entity between Munster Bovine and Progressive Genetics to market and source the best genetics for Irish farmers.

The shareholding structure in NCBC is that Dairygold Co-op holds a 20% stake in NCBC, Kerry holds 20%, west Cork 10% and Progressive Genetics 50%. The chief executive of NCBC is Bernard Eivers.

When questioned this week on a number of issues including the insurance claims around this sire, Eivers did not want to comment. The chair of NCBC is the Munster Bovine chair Richard Hinchion, and again he was not available for comment this week.

Dairygold central

The next round of Dairygold Co-op regional meetings is set to take place this week.

Given all that is happening with Munster Bovine, further questions from farmers are likely.

Dairygold representatives are central to decision-making at Munster Bovine as they hold two-thirds (66%) of the shares in Munster Bovine, formerly known as Munster AI. Kerry Agribusiness own 17% and the west Cork co-ops own the other 17%.

Dairygold has five seats on the Munster Bovine board; dairy farmers Richard Hinchion from Cork, recently elected Dairygold board vice-chair Pat Clancy from Tipperary, and recently re-elected Dairygold board member Ger Dwyer from Limerick.

The other two Dairygold seats are held by two members of the Dairygold senior management team – Tim Healy and Peter O’Driscoll.

The Kerry Agri representatives are dairy farmers Tom Cummins and James McInerney from west Clare.

The two west Cork board members are Denis Lucey and Donal Santry from Lisavaird.

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