Keeping show on the road

FOR a lift in spirits as the recession deepens, a visit to an agricultural show is recommended.

President Mary McAleese recognised this during her visit to the Ploughing Championships, remarking that the record opening-day attendance of 66,000 were creating an inspirational sign of what the country could achieve, by their presence.

She interpreted the show of strength at Athy as a big statement about the faith and pride we have in ourselves and the hopes we have of putting our country back on the map of economic progress and prosperity.

She praised the community effort to transform a working farm into a temporary city, despite the tough economic climate.

Much the same spirits will be in evidence at the next big agri-shows, Beef Expo Ireland in Kilkenny next weekend and the National Dairy Show in Millstreet, Co Cork, on Saturday, October 16. Both are showcases for pedigree cattle breeding.

At the National Dairy Show, farmers will attend a discussion on how they can expand Irish milk production by 50%, and how the processing industry can cope with the extra supply, in the Irish Examiner Farming Forum.

Ireland’s 18,000 or so dairy farmers can be confidently predicted to deliver on target, if the higher profitability of dairying, compared with other farming enterprises, continues.

Although 2009 was one of their worst years ever, leaving many saddled with extra debts, dairy farmers have bounced back full of life, thanks to improved milk prices and suitable weather conditions.

As for processing capacity, the Forum at the Dairy Show will hopefully bring clues as to how the industry will show the co-operation for which it is famous, and come together to devise a cost-effective solution.

Hopefully, dairying expansion will affect the beef market favourably, from the point of view of cattle farmers, and supply and demand trends will return profitability to the majority of them, to match the rapidly improving genetic merit of our beef cattle, which will be on show to an audience of key international visitors at Beef Expo Ireland in Kilkenny.

But milk production is the place to be for the feelgood factor, so rare in Ireland today.

And the pedigree breeders whose cattle will be on show at Millstreet cannot be matched for their enthusiasm in producing the best genetics for the hoped-for booming Irish dairy industry of the next 10 years.

Seeing the teams of young handlers, members of the Irish Holstein Friesian Association Young Members section, at work at Millstreet, is the proof that this at least is a business with a future in Ireland.

Hard though it is to believe in an economy at rock-bottom, high quality dairy animals are a commodity in great demand.

At a recent sale of breeding stock from the Lisduff herd at Whitechurch, Co Cork, top bidders in a very large attendance paid €4,500 and €4,400 for bulls, and €2,250 on average for heifers.

Buyers travelled from Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Galway, Monaghan, Meath, Westmeath, Wexford and Waterford.

Agriculture’s newfound place as a shining light in a blighted economy has not been lost on the commentators.

Writing in the Sunday Business Post, economist David McWilliams predicts Ireland’s recovery will be more GAA than IDA, less bond market, more farmer’s market.

He says promoting local industries and producing and selling among themselves has sown the seeds of growth in Iceland, a country now becoming more attractive for outside investors than Ireland.

Here, agriculture has the plans in place for growth, and enough confidence on the ground to pull it off. Visit the upcoming agri-shows and see for yourself.


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