Support forest producer groups to boost bioenergy sector – IFA
Farmers with forestry offer the greatest potential to fuel the emerging bioenergy industry showcased at this Tuesday's Energy in Agriculture event, writes IFA forestry executive Geraldine O'Sullivan.

Approximately 40% of the total forest area in Ireland is owned and managed by farmers, with the majority of plantations reaching production in the coming decade.

Forecasts show that timber production is to grow from 3.1 million m3 in 2017 to 7.9 million m3 by 2035, with almost all of the increased volume coming from farmers.

The mobilisation of this resource is not without significant challenges. Many factors influence a farmer’s decision to harvest these, including the size of the forest, the level of bureaucracy, lack of knowledge, investment in infrastructure, available harvesting technologies, transportation, etc.

The IFA’s five-point plan to revitalise the farm forestry sector emphasised the importance of producer organisations to overcome some of the barriers to mobilisation.

The peer-to-peer support offered by producer organisations has proven to be hugely successful in mobilising private sector resource elsewhere in Europe.

Budget support

The IFA’s budget 2019 submission is looking for the introduction of supports for existing forest producer groups to help them create the necessary scale to optimise efficiencies in the supply chain and ensure the long-term sustainability of the group and supply.

Properly functioning forest producer organisations are the key to improving efficiency and building further capacity within the sector to satisfy the growing demand for biomass and ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector.

The IFA advocates a network of centralised biomass trading centre, regional service stations that supply top-quality wood fuels

If bioenergy generation is to become widespread, then biomass must be readily available and cost-competitive.

Currently in Ireland, the biomass market is informal and often supply and demand do not easily match.

To ensure an uninterrupted supply, as well as greater control in fuel quality, the IFA advocates a network of centralised biomass trading centre regional service stations that supply top-quality wood fuels, operated by forest producer organisations.

A centralised system would enable improved control of the procurement process.

Biomass could be stored at the centre and processed during the winter season when the demand for fuel is high and working conditions at the forest may be more difficult.

Supporting the establishment of the network of biomass trade and logistic centres offers farmers and rural communities significant new business opportunities to not just supply biomass, but to become heat contractors.

Read more

Turning trees into cash

Bright future for on-farm renewables

November milk supply up over 20%
November milk supply is benefiting farmers, merchants and the processors, writes Jack Kennedy.

Results from an Irish Farmers Journal survey of all the main milk processors this week show November milk supply will be up over 20% compared with the same period last year.

Some processors are up close to 30% for the month.

In the west and northwest, Aurivo is up 15%, Arrabawn up 25%, LacPatrick up 16% and Lakeland up 20%. The big players down south are all up – Dairygold is up 22%, Glanbia is up 20% and Kerry up 27%. The west Cork co-ops are all up, with Lisavaird up 30% and Drinagh up 26%.

Last year the Central Statistics Office reported November 2017 domestic milk intake by creameries and pasteurisers was estimated at 391m litres.

If our estimated survey results for November are confirmed to be up 22% by processor returns, then on average there was an additional 85m to 90m litres produced by farmers in the month.

At a milk solids percentage of 9%, that would be an additional 8m kilogrammes plus of milk solids, which if valued at €4.38/kg (31c/l) it puts an additional €35m of extra output into dairy farmers’ milk cheques compared with the same month last year.

Learnings for Greenfield following snow storm
The external review group set up following the snow storms last March has just released a 27-page review, reports writes Pat O'Toole.

The March snow storms tested management, highlighted that staff were not prepared for the severity of the storm, had an inadequate farm safety statement and need to improve facilities if a similar snow event were to happen again on Greenfield Farm.

These were just some of the key findings from the external review group set up following the snow storms in March 2018 on the Greenfield Farm in Kilkenny.

The report also acknowledges the dedication and commitment of staff during the storm.

The review was set up to focus on the effect of the severe weather event on the Greenfield Farm and how it was dealt with. The external review group was chaired by former Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Moran and included experts such as Dr Jim Reynolds from University of California who had significant experience of managing stock during extreme snow events in Texas and Canada.

Speaking to the Oireachtas agriculture committee after the snow storm, Teagasc director Gerry Boyle promised the review when questioned by TDs following reaction to reports.

The comprehensive 27-page report details the background, operational management, farm facilities and an account of what happened on the farm during storm Emma.

Details of animal records from the Department of Agriculture, knackery records and farm management data for the last six years are all detailed in the report.

Difficult time

In its conclusion, the review group states that it was a particularly difficult time for the farming community as it was one of the busiest times of the year, particularly for those with spring-calving herds.

However, the weather event provided a number of learnings for stakeholders and farm staff including that the farm incorporates feed reserves to allow for severe weather events.

In response, a statement released on behalf of the Greenfield Farm said all parties had examined the report and the recommendations have been fully accepted by all parties.

It also stated that a number of actions have been taken since March to improve the farm’s ability to handle a similar event in the future.

Referring to the animal deaths, the statement says: “Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the staff and stakeholders involved the storm resulted in the deaths of two cows and six calves over a three-day period.’’

The report states that the level of cow mortality is well below the national average, despite the loss of two cows during the storm.

Annual milk quality awards in Kilkenny
To get a ticket to the AHI Cellcheck awards, you need your milk supply SCC to be less than 72,000 for the year, writes Jack Kennedy.

Many dairy farmers won’t believe it but every single herd nominated for these national Animal Health Ireland (AHI) Cellcheck awards has an average somatic cell count (SCC) less than 72,000 for the year.

This figure has improved year on year from the 103,000 that was eligible in 2015.

This clear path of progress was spelled out very clearly at the start of the annual awards in Kilkenny by chief executive of AHI David Graham.

This is the fourth year the awards have taken place to recognise the farm businesses supplying milk with very low somatic cell counts (SCC).

Targets

David Graham opened proceedings by stating the industry targets.

He said: “The industry-agreed target is that 75% of the national milk pool would be less than 200,000 SCC by 2020. Already we are making great strides to achieving this figure.

"In order to qualify to get into this event in 2015, the highest eligible SCC figure was 103,000 cells/ml. This year, the figure is 72,000 cells/ml – that is the maximum average cell count here at these awards today so congratulations to all.”

50 years

FBD group chair Liam Herlihy also addressed the audience. He said: “ FBD is Ireland’s indigenous insurance company celebrating 50 years started by farmers for farmers and we are delighted to associated with this celebration. Today, we are celebrating the cream of the crop and so happy to be celebrating your success at top of the class.”

Over 500 farm businesses represented by over 1,000 invited guests from all over Ireland are gathering in Kilkenny today for the annual Cellcheck awards.