Cork leads the way with contract rearing as majority of heifers remain in home county
Just 5pc of specialist dairy farms are engaged in contract heifer rearing, but Teagasc expects this to increase as the national herd continues to grow in size.
Ongoing research by Teagasc into the biosecurity risks associated with an emerging collaborative farming enterprises – contract heifer rearing – which finds that the majority of contract rearing heifers remain within the same county as they were born.
Contract rearing involves sending heifers calves from their farm of origin to an external holding to be reared for an agreed fee and duraction.
According to Teagasc for contract rearing to be successful, there must be benefits for both the dairy farmer and the heifer rearer.
However, biosecurity measures must be taken to by herd owners to minimise the introduction and dissemination of disease within the farm.
Heifers from multiple sources pose a major challenge to herd biosecurity, according to Teagasc, and it is currently looking at 120 farms, taking blood, nasal and faecal samples.
To date the research shows that source dairy farms had more heifers than control farms. The most common contract rearing arrangement was one source dairy farmer and one contract rearer.
The majority of source dairy farmers (75pc) sent heifers to a contract rearer in the same county and almost half are located in Cork.
The research also shows that the majority of source farmers send their heifers between two and four months, and the majority expect to bring them back between 18 and 24 months.