Review of the year: Heat wave, Kerry Group, Gulf ban lifted, dairy prep & retrospective fines

July brought sunshine, with a heatwave in full swing. Ireland was officially declared in a state of drought and the Department of Agriculture issued guidelines for heat distress in animals.

It outlined the preventative steps that should be taken to ensure that the animals can cope in such weather conditions. These included: increased frequency of inspection of animal behaviour, reduction in stocking density, provision of adequate ventilation, increased water supply and availability, provision of additional cooling mechanisms and shade from the sun.

This month also saw a surge in farmers gearing up for dairy expansion. This was clearly evident with the record-breaking crowds, in excess of 10,000, attending the Teagasc Animal and Grassland, Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark. Speaking at the event, head of the Teagasc animal production and grassland programme, Dr Pat Dillon noted: “Expansion should only be planned if it is going to result in increased farm profitability and improve the livelihoods of the family running the farm. This Open Day will provide family farms with guidance on how to assess their farm businesses and plan a successful expansion.”

July was also a month of rewards where Ireland brought home world ploughing medals. New Ross man John Whelan won the reversible ploughing competition and Derry man Thomas Cochrane took third in the same contest. Eamonn Tracey from Carlow came third in the conventional ploughing competition.

Agri-business was top of the agenda in July. Work commenced on the establishment of Kerry Group’s Global Technology and Innovation Centre in Ireland to serve the group’s global and regional customers in the EMEA region. Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony at the time, said: “The Kerry Global Technology and Innovation Centre at this site will be a landmark, industry-leading campus, supporting Ireland’s global reputation for excellence in research, technology development and innovation in the food and beverage industry. Kerry is a world leader in the food industry and it is most welcome that the Group’s new Technology and Innovation Centre will provide 900 high-skilled positions at the facility on completion as well as 600 construction jobs straight away.”

Also more positive news in July when Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, welcomed a milestone decision by the Gulf Cooperation Council Food Safety Committee to formally lift long-standing bans on exports of Irish beef and sheepmeat from Ireland to the GCC region.  At the time Minister Coveney said this was “a clear signal from the GCC of their confidence in the rigorous controls and excellent standards of food safety in Ireland”.

Overall it was a great harvest for Ireland this year too. AgriLand caught up with the work at Coolmore Stud, a prime showcase of Irish farming at its best. The bloodstock giant set another record, increasing its hay yield by 24 per cent from 125 bales/ac to 155 bales/ac, baling a record 27,850 and unloaded 22,000 bales in four different locations in one day and what a day it was.

Another great insight into Irish farming was an update on our hurley ash supply. In total some 400,000 hurleys are needed to supply the domestic hurling market and in Ireland there has been a 210 per cent increase in numbers producing hurleys since 2007.

This month also saw a big attendance at the Dairy Ireland conference, where it outlined its recommended five-point milk price plan. AgriLand caught up with Frans Keurentjes, dairy farmer and director of Friesland Campina, who  gave an excellent overview of its guaranteed milk pricing system and outlined the co-op’s Route 2020 strategy, highlighting the future growth potential outside of EU markets, especially in Asia and Russia. We also reported on preparing for dairy expansion with the straight-talking John Crawley of The Finance Expert, a feature not to be missed by any dairy farmer.

July ended with ominous news of retrospective overpayment fines. Up to 4,800 farmers across Ireland were issued letters by the Department of Agriculture seeking €1.4m in reimbursements of their single farm payments. This contentious issue stayed on the agenda throughout the remainder of the year and is still unsolved.

AgriLand asked tough questions to the Department of Agriculture and six months later we are still looking for answers.

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