Business

Farmers back genetic improvement of livestock

UFU deputy president Ivor Ferguson

FARMERS have backed plans to bring more science to livestock breeding in Northern Ireland.

It followed a report by the Agri-Food Strategy Board which assessed options to deliver genetic improvement for beef, sheep and dairy farming.

Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) deputy president Ivor Ferguson said: "Northern Ireland is renowned for our excellent livestock producers but science and technology continue to develop."

"As an industry we have to do what we can to improve producer profitability and it is now time to look at how we can best use these technological advancements to give farmers more tools to help with management decisions,” he said.

Mr Ferguson said the pig and poultry industries had changed dramatically over the last 20 years by not only making better genetics more accessible but also by making full use of them.

“The challenge now is to see how we can do the same for beef, sheep and dairy,” he said.

Livestock genomics programmes are already taking place in the Republic, Australia and the US.

“A central hub for Northern Ireland must now be developed to collect all this data and identify the genetics that are performing the best in the commercial world. This information can then be made available to farmers to help with decision making,” said Mr Ferguson.

“We are all aware of the changes in specification that have taken place over the last couple of years. These have created practical and financial difficulties on local farms. If processors are serious about this initiative they must show leadership. They need to begin giving long term signals that the market is changing. This would ensure farmers have the best chance of producing the animal that is going to return the best market value."

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