Irish dairy farmers get IT wake-up call

Related tags Agriculture

The latest IT systems on offer to help dairy farmers have been
displayed at a major farming event in Ireland amid concerns that
Irish dairy farmers are not making full use of the IT equipment
available to them, reports Chris Mercer.

The farming IT event, organised by Irish food and agriculture development body Teagasc, was held to highlight the practical use of computers in an "endless list"​ of farming tasks from ordering goods to registering and monitoring herds and products.

Around 40 per cent of Ireland's farm households have a computer, yet only 15 per cent were found to be using their equipment for farm business and a mere one per cent were using the internet, according to Dr Tom Kelly, head of Teagasc's farm management and technology services.

He said it was essential to increase these figures and cited a new programme from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation as a huge step forward.

"Information from the CMMS, A1 Centres, milk recording, marts and slaughter houses are now combined to improve cattle breeding information for farmers,"​ he said.

"The same information comes back as management reports to help farm management by identifying mortality, fertility performance, and lifetime performance for individual animals and give comparisons between farmers."

MEP Liam Aylward said that e-technology would be essential in ensuring farmers are successful in the key areas of their businesses. "The increase in the number of part-time farmers will also compound the need to adapt IT practices."

Reform to the EU's common agricultural policy and the possible scaling down of export subsidies, as well as low farmgate milk prices, have made efficiency crucial in dairy farming over the last few years.

Systems on show at the recent Teagasc event include: Teagasc's own Dairy Herd Monitor; Ration Recknor, which allows farmers to make up their own rations and diets for cows and cattle; Cost Control Planner, which monitors financial performance against a budget; and Food Assurance on-line, which gives information and training on food production standards for farmers.

For more information on these systems and others contact Teagasc.

The Irish department of Agriculture has also developed a new system to identify farm animals and monitor their movement.

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