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Ireland sees New Zealand driving forward in farming

New Zealand farmers are paving the way in farming productivity and technology according to Laurence Fallon, Chairman of the National Sheep Committee, Irish Farmers’ Association.

During his recent visit to New Zealand at the invitation of Meat New Zealand, Fallon noted that the biggest change in New Zealand since his last visit in 1985 was the overwhelmingly positive attitude of New Zealand farmers.

"Since I was last here in 1985 the whole farming outlook has turned right around. Farmers are positive and farmers are looking to invest in their future. There is a definite change in morale and optimism."

New Zealand stock numbers are very large in comparison to the average stock numbers per farm in Ireland. The average flock size in Ireland is 170 sheep and 15 cows in a herd which is substantially smaller then New Zealand.

Fallon’s farm is considered large in Ireland with 220ha with 550 ewes. The average New Zealand commercial sheep and beef farm at 30 June 2003 had 3,015 sheep and 225 beef cattle.

Fallon says Irish farmers at present have been heading more towards part-time farming. This is a trend that he believes will eventually phase out following the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy to be implemented from January 1 2005.

"We are hoping to encourage more young farmers into the sector full-time as some of the farmers seem to have stagnated with the government subsidies, making part-time farming far more common."

Fallon also says that there has been a perception that Ireland wants to stop New Zealand lamb getting into Europe.

"This is not the reality for Irish farmers. We would like to work together in Europe, enabling all parties to get a good price for their products. Since the Foot and Mouth outbreak in Europe, consumers still want lamb products, even with it being at a higher price."

Meat New Zealand Chief Executive Mark Jeffries said that it was important that both countries work to maintain strong demand for lamb, and that each country’s supply complemented the others’, because of seasonal differences in production. "Together, we are able to ensure quality lamb is available year round and that’s a huge benefit for our respective farmers and for consumers." Jeffries said.

Fallon commented that New Zealand has an excellent quarantine system.

"I was very impressed with the quarantine system that has been put in place here to control pests and diseases entering New Zealand. I could not believe it when they offered to clean my boots on arrival!"

Fallon believes that New Zealand is really driving forward with farming productivity and technology. He felt that productivity gains from the increased lambing percentages and average lamb weight in the New Zealand sheepmeat sector outperformed virtually any other productivity improvements he had seen for other meat products.

"Ireland will definitely have to take a serious look at New Zealand’s excellent farming systems and innovations"

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