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Discussion Dinner Summaries


Dairy 1

What are the top 5 restrictions to greater farm gate profitability and what can we do to...?

  1. Forage quality:

    "With milk prices and feed ingredient prices changing all the time, it has never been more important to get more from our feed. It is the greatest way for us to control costs."

  2. Fertility
  3. Labour

    "Time is our limiting factor. Communication and the ability to build a team and grow to a large dairy farm is something we all aspire to but it takes resources and a new generation of educated farmers."

    "To be a good leader is to be able to put people in the right places."

    "The young not being given the opportunity to take on ideas."

  4. Professional support:

    "Our major challenge is finding independent, technical support and knowledge on farm."

  5. Pricing of feed, milk etc. is a major constraint and it is very volatile

    "We need confidence to invest in our business. Milk price plummeted last year and although it has recovered, its effect will live on for some time."


Dairy 2

A cow now at 36,000L, is this what we should strive towards, or where is the ideal production level for optimal health, fertility and ultimately profitability?

  1. You need healthy cows, good environment, comfortable cows and a good feeding strategy
  2. You cannot sacrifice fertility for more milk production
  3. You need a system that fits the local conditions and you need to follow that system consistently
  4. Some countries deliberately limit their milk production in order to ensure fertility
  5. It is necessary to get the one calf per year
There are three main things you need: cow comfort, cow comfort and cow comfort.”
Take good care of your personnel and they will take good care of your farm.”

Dairy 3

Is achieving environmentally sustainable milk production a pathway to greater efficiency or should the emphasis be the reverse situation of more efficient use of nutrients delivering lower carbon footprint?

  • Consumer opinion dictates the future of the agriculture industry. Social media will be a key tool in educating consumers. Other people are telling the story of agriculture, depicting the industry in a negative light through inaccuracies. We have to start telling our story.
  • Who is going to pay for a lower carbon footprint?
  • Some see value in certifying themselves through regional efficient and well management certifications, creating a web page, and inviting consumers to their farm in an effort to connect them with the farm.
  • Fertility is a huge hurdle when it comes to dairy cow efficiency.
  • Although carbon footprint in agriculture may not be as much of an issue as in other sectors, it is our job to maintain that responsibility in reducing the footprint we have, and telling our story.
An efficient herd is a profitable herd.”
To reach consumers we have to stop talking like scientists and start telling our story.”

Crop Science 4

Where can we realistically take crop yields in the next 5 years and what could be the consequences of such increases?

The Crop Science discussion dinner focused on the benefits of improving the quality of feedstuffs. To begin the discussion, the following questions were posed:

Q. In the United States, haylage and alfalfa are sold on a quality basis, where higher quality is sold at a cost premium. Could we create a similar market here in Europe and what would the benefits be?

Q. Should farmers focus more on producing higher quality feedstuffs rather than quantity?

Most of the attendees grew their own feedstuffs for their operation and there was a general consensus that quality is more important than quantity.

The No. 1 priority for all of the farmers was the health and well-being of their dairy cattle. More poor quality feed would need to be utilised to have the same nutrient value of a higher quality feed. Utilising a poorer quality feed can often have a negative impact on herd health and therefore optimised dairy output is limited.


Beef 5

Beef consumption has undergone enormous challenges and potential crisis in the last 10 years, BSE, Dioxin, Horsemeat etc. How can the producers take control of communicating a more positive message to increase consumer confidence in their product?

  • 94% of Irish beef is exported
  • There are 35,000 producers and only 7,000 with a commercial future
  • There are more farmers over the age of 80 than there are under 35
  • It is impossible for Europe to compete with US and Brazil because of the cost of production
  • US consumers want cheap meat- this is the same reason that led to the horsemeat scandal in Europe
  • Mainstream media portray a negative image of farming, but farmers love their animals
The wonderful thing about beef cattle is their adaptability.”
Why would we all want to have parity, we all have our differences to exploit.”

Beef 6

What are the Top 3 restrictions to greater profitability from a beef enterprise and what can be done to alleviate them?

Everyone faces challenges, but it’s up to you to play the hand you are dealt and move on.”
Rodrigo Troncoso, Cámara Argentina de Feedlot, Argentina
We have to have better communication along the chain.” John Campbell, South East Asia Ruminant Manager, Thailand

5 Key Points:

  1. Europe is a politically driven system whereas in North America, it’s an efficiency driven system
  2. Vertical Co-ordination/Alliances
  3. Knowing when to market cattle
  4. Knowing what the consumer wants
  5. Never hire a skinny nutritionist!

Beef 7 (Italian Dairy Group)

What are the Top 5 restrictions to greater farm gate profitability and what can we do?

Main objectives:

  1. Margin = profitability
  2. Fertility
  3. Longevity
  4. Raw materials management (reduce the loss of starch - fine corn mill)
  5. Find the way to grow abroad. Is it necessary?
We need to differentiate our final product i.e. Parmigiano reggiano, grana padano – although perhaps working together would bring more results.”
We are the next generation on our farm and we need to decide if we would still do this job, considering the poor profitability it offers.”