Grass utilisation and herd fertility are key to the future of Irish agriculture, according to Mike Magan, a speaker at the recent launch of the ‘Opportunities for sustainably competitive Irish agriculture’ report.

Magan, who is a Director of Animal Health Ireland, and part of the think tank behind the report, said at its launch that these are two critical elements of driving profitable Irish agriculture in the future.

He said that Irish agriculture has a lot going for it, including top-class grass research; the ICBF, a national breeding programme (genomics), a family farm structure, the Origin Green programme, Ornua brand, a supportive Department of Agriculture and strong farming organisations, but it must focus on two key areas: grass utilisation and fertility.

However, he said that while Food Harvest 2020 put a target for growth it may have given some farmers the idea that bigger should be before better.

But he said that raising the output to an average of 10tDM/ha should be a primary target and there is the potential to increase this to 12tDM/ha.

“Every additional tonne of DM is worth more than €250. We need to make grass utilisation a national focus.

“This will require that the number of dairy and beef farmers who actually measure their grass production and utilisation be increased from presently low levels of less than 10% and 5% to 30% and 20% respectively.”

He also said that less than 50% of dairy producers are currently milk recording and that figure must be 100% by 2025.

The dairy farmer also said that there should be in place a board to drive the direction of Irish agriculture – and Agri-Food Action Board, which would work towards ensuring national targets are met.