Suckler cow breeds decrease across the board
An analysis of data from the last two year's births show a decrease in beef dams with certain beef sires on the rise.

Full-year 2018 and 2017 data from the Department of Agriculture's animal identification and movement system (AIMS) show a continued decrease in beef dam breeds but certain beef bull numbers are increasing.

Table 1: the top 10 sire & dam breeds for 2017/2018

The Friesian breed continues to dominate with an increase of 16,719 sires and 42,203 dams in 2018 compared to 2017 data. Limousin on the other hand continues to fall with a reduction of 18,037 sires and 13,975 dams in 2018.

The following beef dams all experience a decrease in 2018:

  • Limousin, -4%.
  • Charolais, -9%.
  • Simmental, -5%.
  • Hereford, -1%.
  • Aberdeen Angus -2%.
  • Notably, some beef breeds had an increase in sire numbers. These include Aberdeen Angus (2%), Hereford (4%) and Simmental (3%). Use of these beef bulls has primarily risen in the dairy system.

    Calf numbers

    In 2018, 1,561,148 calves were born to beef bulls, a decrease of 24,296 from the previous year. On the other hand, 786,816 calves were born to dairy bulls, an increase of 22,100.

    The data points to a continued decline in beef numbers as dairy herds expand.

    Cork had the highest number of calves born to beef bulls in 2018 with 229,877 births recorded up by 5,339 on 2017 numbers. Cork also had the highest number of dairy calves born to dairy bulls with 786,816 births recorded, up by just 662 on 2017 data.

    Dublin had the lowest number of beef and dairy bull calves born in 2018 with only 5,616 births recorded collectively. Dublin also took the title for lowest number of calves born to dairy bulls in 2018 from Leitrim, which had only 1,185 births recorded in 2017.

    Weekly weather: Unsettled conditions to give way to warmer spell
    There will be unsettled weather early in the week with cooler and fresher conditions. However, there are tentative signs for warmer weather later in the week.

    Monday

    Today, Monday, will be cool, breezy and showery. Met Éireann are predicting showers to become widespread through the late morning and continue through the day. Temperatures will reach 14°C to 17°C and the higher temperatures will be in the southeast of the country.

    Monday night will be cool with a few passing showers still around and overnight lows of 4°Cto 7°C.

    Tuesday

    Many areas will stay fully dry with some good sunny spells and just isolated showers on Tuesday. The southwest will be affected by the odd heavy shower. Feeling fresh across the northern half of the country in moderate northerly breezes. Afternoon highs of 11°C to 15°C.

    Tuesday night will be chilly with overnight lows of 3°C to 6°C. Under clear and calm conditions some grass frost may set in.

    Wednesday

    It will start out largely dry on Wednesday with light southwest breezes and good sunshine across the eastern half of the country. However, it will soon cloud over with patchy outbreaks of drizzle moving in off the Atlantic and more general falls of rain later in the afternoon. There will be some prolonged or heavy falls across the north and west later in the evening. Highest temperatures of 13°C to 16°C.

    Wednesday night is forecast to be cloudy with further outbreaks of rain. Lows of 6°C to 12°C.

    Thursday

    Thursday will see scattered falls of rain through the day, heaviest across the west to begin and later across the northern half of the country, where it may turn persistent. Highest temperatures will range 13°C to 19°C, mildest, driest and brightest across southeast Munster and south Leinster.

    Friday

    Early indications are that Friday will see a few well scattered showers, but overall dry with sunny spells and moderate southwest breezes. Feeling very mild or even warm with highs of 16°C to 21°C.

    Farming forecast

    Rain

    Over the past seven days rainfall amounts were well below average across the country. For the most parts amounts were below 20% of average. However, across the north rainfall totals came in higher with 30% to 70% of the usual rainfall recorded here.

    With an Atlantic regime dominating the next seven days, rainfall amounts are expected to be above average in most places, with parts of the northwest expecting around 30mm. Amounts will be below average along southern and eastern coasts.

    Temperatures

    Mean temperatures have ranged close to the seasonal norm over the last week with just the northern coast a little below average. This equates to a mean temperature of between 10°C and 12°C degrees.

    From Sunday, temperatures will dip below average for the first half of the week but warmer weather is indicated for later in the week.

    Sunshine

    For the past week, sunshine amounts were above near or just above average in Munster, ranging from 100% to 120%. It was also sunnier than normal in the north of Ulster. However, it was duller than normal in most other areas, especially across north Leinster with just 50% to 60% of the usual sunshine here.

    Drying and Spraying Conditions

    Drying conditions will vary over the coming week and will be poor at times. Spraying opportunities will be moderate or limited with mixed conditions.

    Field Conditions

    Soil moisture deficits are above 40mm to 55mm over parts of Munster and Connaught. Elsewhere soil moisture deficits are around 30mm to 35mm. Over the next week, they will decrease somewhat as the weather becomes more changeable.

    Taoiseach ‘cannot rule out’ general election
    Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin have both addressed the issue of a general election as counting in the local and European elections continues.

    An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, when questioned by RTÉ on Sunday evening, said he could not rule out a general election, but he would not be seeking to dissolve the Dáil in the next few days or weeks.

    He cited the need to have a stable government in light of Brexit, which he said would continue for a long time, as well as the autumn budget and potentially by-elections at the same time.

    While the Taoiseach said that “others could pull the plug on the Government”, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin indicated that his party would continued with the current confidence and supply agreement.

    He said it was prepared to “work constructively in terms of framing a Budget because of the prospect of a no-deal Brexit".

    Local elections

    By midnight on Sunday, some 820 of the 949 seats have been filled nationwide, with Fianna Fáil taking 26.9% of first preference votes and Fine Gael taking 25.2%.

    Independent candidates claimed 19.6% of first preference votes, while Sinn Fein took 9.5%, Labour took 5.8% and the Green Party took 5.6%.

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    Waterford start-up VirtualVet helping farmers to track animal drug usage
    Waterford firm VirtualVet is an international company that tracks drug usage in animals associated with the human food chain.

    VirtualVet is one of the agricultural finalists at this year’s National Enterprise Awards, which is taking place on 29 May.

    The Waterford start-up formed three years ago and now has five members of staff.

    VirtualVet tracks and works to change drug usage in the food chain.

    VirtualVet serves three markets:

  • Farmers who must record usage under compliance.
  • Agri-food and animal health industries.
  • Governments monitoring drug usage in the food chain.
  • Services provided

    Speaking with co-founder and managing director of VirtualVet Sinead Quealy, we learned how the company works and gathers the useful drug-usage data.

    “We provide a free service to farmers gathering information on a farm level about their drug usage on animals, which benefits them, as it covers their compliance,” Sinead said.

    “VirtualVet then gets paid for this data by other companies interested in analysing drug usage in the food chain, such as ABP.

    "Pharmaceutical companies also have recently begun requesting this data.”

    “At the moment, 100% of our work is focused on the agriculture sector, but there is potential for movement into drug usage in humans and harnessing the useful data.”

    Assessments

    On reaching the National Enterprise Awards final, Sinead said: “By arriving to this point in the competition, we have gotten the chance to make assessments of the company that we wouldn’t have done otherwise.

    "By preparing ourselves for judging and presentation to the external public, we have been able to make significant improvements to the company.”

    VirtualVet was the winners of this year’s Waterford Local Enterprise Awards and is hoping for success on the national stage this year.

    Awards

    The National Enterprise Awards celebrate small businesses from across the country, focusing on start-ups, innovation and exports, with the finals taking place on 29 May at the Mansion House, Dublin.

    There is over €40,000 in prizes to be won, with the overall winner taking home €10,000.

    Terra NutriTech was last year’s winners, an ag-tech company that specialises in precision liquid supplementation for livestock.

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