Contract rearing will increase quite substantially over the next couple of years and potentially 2,000 dairy farmers could require the service.

Teagasc’s George Ramsbottom said that by 2020 over 3500 dairy farmers will have more than 100 cows and these farmers will be stocked at more than a cow/acre when speaking at a recent dairy exent.

Ramsbottom highlighted the importance contract rearing will play in the successful future of both the Irish dairy and beef industries.

“The scale and intensity of future dairy enterprises will create huge demands, and dairy farmers will be looking for people to take their stock to relieve some of the labour issues in years to come.”

This increase will mean that there is potential for 2,000 dairy farmers to have their heifers contracted reared within the next five years said Ramsbottom.

He also cited the pros and cons New Zealand farmers had experienced in terms of contract rearing.

pros and cons of contract rearing

Ramsbottom added that there must be a meeting of minds between the dairy farmer and the contract farmer.

“The key thing is that you need to pick the right person and both parties must be aware of the expectations before they engage in contract rearing.

“The most important thing is getting the right combination of people.”

He also said that contract rearing is not only beneficial to the dairy farmer but it could complement existing dry-stock and tillage enterprises. It presents an opportunity to make these enterprises more viable.

“The vast majority of beef enterprises are eating into their single farm payment. Contract rearing can be a stand alone enterprise in terms of generating income.”

contract rearing

Patrick Gowing, from the Teagasc Dairy Expansion Service said that contract rearing is cost neutral for most dairy farmers.

“It is rear enough that it pays the dairy farmer to send heifers out. The contract rearing is cost neutral, from a dairy farmers point there is no saving.

“The dairy farmer enters contract rearing arrangements to save time and land potential.”

Gowing also cited the importance of grassland management for potential farmers considering this venture.

“For the rearer to be successful they must have perennial ryegrass swards and a paddock systems. Proper grassland management is essential for both heifer performance and profitability.”

Gowing also said that contract rearing could allow beef farmers to improve farm profitability and efficiencies.

“Most beef farmers are under stocked, this has a negative impact on farm performance. It will allow the farmer to become more efficient along with potentially producing an additional income.”