The dairy industry of the future “requires cows that are profitable for the farmer” but also have as “low an environmental impact as possible,” according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

Speaking at the European Holstein and Red Holstein Conference 2023 today (Thursday, April 27) in Co. Dublin the minister said that cows will also have to “excellent health and can produce a dairy beef calf that is profitable to rear”.

According to Minister McConalogue the introduction of the Dairy Beef Index (DBI) is just one example of how Ireland can provide leadership in this area.

Minister McConalogue addressing European Holstein and Red Holstein conference

“The Dairy Beef Index is a breeding goal for Irish dairy farmers to produce a calf that is more suitable for beef production.

“This goal will be achieved without having a negative impact on the dairy cow while increasing the value of the calf intended for beef production,” the minister told the conference – a key Holstein herdbook event in Europe.

The minister said that a “strong pedigree sector” backed up by scientific expertise was vital for continued genetic gain in Ireland.

But Minister McConalogue also acknowledged that there are “a number of immediate challenges facing the agriculture sector” and said that farmers were at the forefront of these.

“Marrying addressing our climate ambitions with the need of helping to feed the world with safe, sustainable and nutritious animal proteins is truly the challenge of our generation,” he added.

Referencing Ireland’s target of 51 % reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 – and specifically in relation to agriculture’s target reductions of 25% by 2030, Minister McConalogue said the focus for agriculture is “on reducing nitrogen and methane emissions, while increasing carbon capture and storage”.

“We need to accelerate progress through reduced application of nitrogen-based fertilisers, replacing them with protected urea and reducing the age of cattle finishing.

“I recognise that achieving this ambition will not be without its challenges and that significant and transformational change will be required”, he warned.

Additional reporting by Brian McDonnell.