Market growth central at AgriFood Conference
Some of the biggest companies and figures in the Irish agri-food sector were all represented at the morning session of the 2014 Agri Food conference.

Secretary general of the Department of Agriculture Tom Moran opened proceedings by outlining the role the agri-food sector is playing the economy. He said agriculture as a “driver of economic growth has increasingly been recognised by the Government, especially since the crash”.

Moran also pointed to population growth and how food production will have to “grow by 60% to 70% in the coming decades” and how Ireland will be central to that growth.

Moran concluded by talking about trade and multilateral trade deals. He said in 2012 the Irish food industry focused on developing markets in the Gulf, China and Japan which “had success” and now the emphasis will shift to market access in “Russia, Africa and the US”.

CEO of the Irish Dairy Board Kevin Lane said while all signs are positive for expansion in the dairy herd, there are a number of hurdles for the sector to deal with.

“There are challenges,” Lane said. “Investment in the sector will remain difficult,” he said.

He went on to say that the Irish dairy sector must continue to adapt and diversify its offering. “It’s not just what we want but what the market wants too,” he said.

Lane also pointed to price volatility. “Milk prices of 38-39c have not been the norm in the past 10 years. We need to pick a sensible number in what we budget for and manage volatility.”

He concluded by saying that the “massive passion” among dairy farmers will help the growth of the sector post 2015.

Keeping the majority of his talk on a topical note, managing director of the Kepak John Horgan spoke at length about the bull beef issue and the need for beef farmers to keep their animals “in specification”.

“Animals in the 300kg-380kg weight range, under 30 months of age with an acceptable fat score and condition are what we call in specification,” Horgan said. “Unfortunately, almost 50% of cattle fall outside these specifications.” Horgan said it is difficult to sell to retail clients when animals are out of spec.

Talking at length about the innovations needed in the sector, Horgan said the role of sexed semen technology can be “crucial” for the sector. However, he said the technology is now “on the cusp of greatness or procrastination” and urged the sector to press ahead with advancements.

Joe Hyland of Irish Country Meats (ICM) challenged the Department of Agriculture to “deliver for the sheep sector”.

“We have been the bridesmaids in the latest CAP reform, we need a coherency in the implantation of the proposals that will deliver for the sheep farmers. In Food Harvest proposals, beef was tasked with growing by 40%, dairying 50% and the sheep man, all he had to was 20%, we’re now at 35%,” he said.

Hyland also called the Department to focus further on developing more Muslim markets. “1.6bn people or 23% of world’s population are Muslims, we need to focus our market access strategy in line with this opportunity,” he said.

Chairman of Truly Irish Jim McGrath said that while world demand for Irish pigmeat is positive there are number of factors, such increasing inputs, that could perhaps stall growth.

“Feed represents 70% of pig production costs, this is 10% higher than mainland Europe,” McGrath said.

McGrath also that the Food Harvest targets are challenging but are there to be met.

The first session was concluded with CEO of Glanbia Ingredients Jim Bergin. Bergin opened his talk by drawing on a sporting analogy to represent the impending removal of milk quotas.

“We’re at the 60th minute of a game and we are about to bring our substitutes to freshen up the game,” Bergin said.

Bergin spoke at length about the developments and upgrades Glanbia is carrying out.

“Belview is coming,” he said. “We have a lot of work done there and the plant is progressing well,” said.

He said the Belview development and the upgrading of its other sites including Ballyragget are “crucial” to being prepared for the removal of quotas and competing even more on the world’s stage.

"We are competing for the rich niches in the world market,” he said before saying that the country must stay ahead of the market.

Further reports to follow on

The farmer's daily wrap: Brexit, BEEP and €500 vet visit charge
Here is your news round-up of the five top farming stories and weather outlook for 22 February 2019.

Weather forecast

Friday is forecast to start cloudy and breezy with outbreaks of rain and drizzle. Met Éireann has said that the rain and drizzle will become confined to western and northern areas in the afternoon with good spells of sunshine developing in the south and east.

Top temperatures will range between 12-15° in fresh to strong and gusty south to southeast winds but becoming increasing windy by evening time in the southwest.

In the news

  • The Irish Farmers Journal has obtained documents which show the UK will open the floodgates to Brazilian beef in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  • Rushes from Irish farms have been converted to biochar worth €1,750/t on world markets.
  • A veterinary practice in Donegal has an out of hours call out fee of €500 which it says is due to a shortage of vets.
  • Farmers have registered 270,000 suckler cows with the Department of Agriculture under the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme.
  • Farm organisations have called for farm payments to be maintained at their current levels and schemes such as GLAS to be extended if the rollout of the next CAP is delayed.
  • Coming up this Friday

  • The weather for the weekend ahead.
  • The Big Dealer.
    'We're in uncharted waters' - farmers react to Brazilian beef threat
    Odile Evans reports from the Irish Farmers Journal mart demo in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, on Thursday night.

    Farmers at the Irish Farmers Journal mart demo in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, on Thursday night reacted in dismay to the news that the UK is set to open its doors to Brazilian beef.

    Tom Bryan from outside Tipperary town. \ Patrick Browne

    Tom Bryan keeps store cattle and pedigree Charolais outside Tipperary town:

    “[Brexit is] serious, even for the exports to the north. At €2.20/kg or €2.30/kg, you’re not going to make money because the cost of manure and meal and electricity has gone so high.

    “Sure meal is €230/t. It’s very hard for young farmers to stay at home - they can get a good job and a good education. I have two nephews and I don’t think they’ll take it on.”

    Martin Phelan from Camross, Co Laois. \ Patrick Browne

    Suckler and sheep farmer Martin Phelan farms in Camross, Co Laois:

    “[Suckling] all depends on what the British do over the next month. It’s hard enough to make money at the current price so we couldn’t compete with Brazilian beef.

    "I have survived the last 30 years in farming at current prices, but I don’t see how anyone could stay farming at the price that’s being paid at the moment.

    “One of the promises that the Brexiteers made during the campaign to leave the EU was that food prices would be cheaper. If the British bring in a cheap food policy for Britain, our market is gone.”

    Tony Doorley from Lacka, Carrig, Birr, Co Offaly. \ Patrick Browne

    Tony Doorley is a retired farmer in Lacka, Carrig, Birr, Co Offaly. He works with Dovea Genetics but helps his son on the 80-cow dairy farm:

    “We sell most of the bull calves at three weeks. We have the same customer for the last four or five years from the yard - they’d be beef men. Naturally prices are back, we are facing into the unknown at the moment.

    “People are living in hope. It may not be as bad as we are expecting it to be, but if it is, it would be a disaster for rural Ireland.

    "It has traditionally been a beef country. Beef is very important to the whole industry, not alone to the farmers, but to the factories and the workers and the hauliers and our own company in the AI station.

    “The English market is a natural hub for our beef and we’re just hoping against hope that there will be a deal. If they’re to bring their beef from Brazil, what is that going to do for the carbon footprint?”

    Ray Dempsey from Roscrea. \ Patrick Browne

    Ray Dempsey is a suckler-to-beef farmer and runs a mid-season ewe flock near Roscrea, Co Tipperary:

    “It would be very difficult to compete [with Brazil]. I think we are in very uncharted waters where we are at the moment. Nobody knows what Brexit is bringing, there’s a lot of scaremongering going on as well.

    “The UK is trying to put pressure on Irish beef farmers to see can they get any support there. No matter what way it goes, hard border or soft border, it’s still not going to be much good for the Irish farmer. We still need that UK market.

    "I suppose I’m around long enough to see the wheel going round. At the moment, every young farmer has to look at milk for a living if you want to be a full-time farmer.

    “It’s in everybody’s interest that we work together but the attitudes have to change on all sides. If we are to use the beef coming out of the dairy herd, there needs to be a bit more quality and a bit more genetics put into it. We can work together if the dairy farmer produces a quality calf.”

    Read more

    UK plans to open doors to Brazilian beef

    Editorial: UK threat to wipe out Irish beef in no-deal Brexit

    'Substantial amounts of money' for beef farmers in no-deal Brexit – Tánaiste

    In pictures: springtime surprises of quintuplet lambs and triplet calves
    A suckler farmer in Wexford has welcomed triplet calves to his farm while a farmer in Sligo has had quintuplet lambs. Odile Evans and David Wilson report.

    Damian Henry welcomed five new lambs to his farm in Coolaney, Sligo on 8 February. His Cheviot crossbred ewe gave birth to quintuplets which he said are all doing well. The ewe was bred to a Suffolk ram.

    The lambs are getting a bottle twice or three times a day. Damian estimates that the lightest lamb was 3.5kg while the heaviest was 5kg.

    Quintuplets born in Sligo. \ Damian Henry

    “Every year this ewe has had twins up to now, she has more than paid for herself,” Damian told the Irish Farmers Journal. “It only took her 45 minutes to lamb from the first one to the fifth.”


    Meanwhile triplet calves were born on Mick Doyle’s farm outside Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Mick’s triplets (two heifers, one bull) were born on Saturday 16 February to a Simmental cross cow and a Charolais bull.

    Micheál Doyle,Siobhán Sinnott, Mike Doyle and Rory Higgan with the triplet calves born on Mike Doyle's farm in Coolharbour, Co. Wexford. \ Philip Doyle

    “The calves are doing very well with the heaviest being a bull born at around 40kg. I had been expecting twins so I had been feeding the cow that bit extra. There was no trouble with calving, the cow actually calved the first two by herself!”

    If that wasn’t enough, Mick is also in the middle of lambing with quadruplet lambs arriving in the last week to a Belclare cross ewe.

    Read more

    Surprise as triplet calves born in Cork

    Shock and excitement in Mayo as ewe gives birth to five lambs