30 years of dairy shows
“Organised by farmers for farmers” could be one of the mottos of the National Dairy Show, which will be held for the 30th time on October 20 at its usual indoor venue in the Green Glens Arena, Millstreet, Co Cork.
“The show here in Millstreet has for nearly three decades attracted the best pedigree dairy stock from around the country to compete in a range of competitions,” said Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney when he officially opened the 2011 event.
“The superb indoor location in the Green Glens arena allows for a comfortable setting to view some of the best Holstein Friesian cattle from the top breeders in the country.”
The big attendance last year celebrated one of the best years ever in Irish dairy farming, even if many of them were still recovering from their 2009 income slump.
This year, the challenge of running a successful 30th show, after a very difficult year for many dairy farmers, rests with show co-ordinator Seamus Crowley, a dairy farmer from Enniskeane, Co Cork, and his team, drawn from the ranks of the Cork Holstein Friesian Breeders Club, helped by the Irish Holstein Friesian Association.
After 30 years of success, how do you plan to make this anniversary show a big success?
>>Thankfully, because of our generous sponsors, we are able to increase our prize fund this year, which has increased the number of breeders entering.
We now have a prize fund of €30,000, which is a record for any dairy show in Ireland.
At this point, I must thank the sponsors who support the show and make it a success.
We have companies who have supported every show since 1982, and they all are the key to the success of the event.
We plan to have a special celebration on the day as well. We will have a presentation to all the previous champions at the show.
We also want to give something back to the public, who support the show year after year, by having an after-show celebration in the show ring. It promises to be a special event, where we all can mingle together and enjoy the best of Irish dairy produce.
Minister Coveney said last year the pedigree breeders at the show have a key role in driving profitability in the dairy sector. How have they come through the weather difficulties of 2012?
>>Every dairy farmer faced similar difficulties this year.
I feel whether it was somebody with high-yielding pedigree cows, or somebody working with a low-input system, it was a testing year for everyone.
The Pfizer Animal Health Farming Forum at this year’s National Dairy Show is targeted at every dairy farmer, no matter what system, to advise on how to face these challenges.
The word on every livestock farmer’s lips is winter feeding, after the bad summer weather we have experienced.
Access to feeding is the barrier that determines all dairy farmers’ plans, from grass availability in grass-based systems, to the cost of protein and concentrates in the higher production systems.
That is why we plan to focus on this in our forum, ‘Feeding beyond the Barriers’.
What will be the big talking points among farmers at this year’s show?
>>On top of the feeding issue, which I have just covered, the other big talking point will be increasing production as we head towards 2015. Minister Simon Coveney will be at the National Dairy Show on Saturday week, and I feel he needs to do more to provide a soft landing as we approach 2015.
It is not possible for any dairy farmer to just turn on a tap and increase production the day after EU milk quotas end in 2015.
There needs to be more done to allow farmers increase gradually each year from now on.
I get the feeling that even though some things have been done, and butterfat quota is being looked at, farmers in general want action on this so that they can plan better.
How does it compare with organising a local agricultural show?
>>I am involved in Dunmanway Show, but the main difference is the specialised aspect of the National Dairy Show.
At the local show, there are horses, beef cattle and all forms of exhibitors arrive on the day.
However, with the National Dairy Show, the animals arrive up to three days before the show, they need accommodation, bedding, water etc.
There is just so much more preparation.
The trade stands too arrive days before the event, with many trade-stand exhibitors coming from the North or overseas.
Of course, the prize money is far greater too, as you would expect from a national event.
Was the show held in conjunction with the World Holstein Friesian Conference in Killarney in 2008 special?
>>The 2008 show was a great opportunity to show off to the world what a great dairy industry we have here in Ireland.
Our cows and breeders are now viewed as some of the best in the world, and this year’s National Dairy Show will again attract the interest of a worldwide audience.
The show will be covered in North America and across Europe, and much of this is thanks to the spotlight of the 2008 World Holstein Friesian Conference.